On September 23, the California Democratic Party-controlled State Assembly passed Bill AB 701, which claims to ban “warehouse distribution centers,” but clearly targets Amazon, forcing employees to comply. quotas that prevent “compliance with meal or rest periods, use of toilet facilities, including reasonable travel time to and from the toilet, or occupational health and safety laws.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom. (AP Photo / Rich Pedroncelli, Pool)

With more than 150,000 employees in California alone, Amazon is the state’s largest employer. According to Business intern, about 1 in 153 American workers are employed by the company. Amazon’s global workforce grew by an additional 500,000 during the pandemic to reach 1.3 million. She plans to hire 100,000 more during the winter break.

The legislation is a toothless move, which allows California Democrats to pose as workers’ rights advocates while doing nothing to seriously challenge the electronically imposed fast-track regime, which is ubiquitous in Amazon warehouses. First, it doesn’t take effect until January 2022, after the next holiday season, which analysts say will be marked by massive disruption due to global supply chain issues. Amazon will be allowed to apply unsafe labor rates during the holiday season even before the bill’s provisions go into effect.

Second, the bill does not set any real limit on work rates or quotas or define what constitutes “reasonable travel time” during breaks. Instead, these issues will be argued through complaints by individual workers, in which precedents will be set in an asymmetrical environment where workers will have to fight alone for months against the army of lawyers. business. Such procedures have long been in place in workers’ compensation systems across the country, which function to protect workers from liability due to injuries sustained by workers on the job.

Moreover, even if a worker wins his case, the injunction seems to be limited to a reduction in the quotas of that person and not of those of the establishment as a whole.

Third, because complaints are not anonymous, the bill is tantamount to inviting workers to risk victimization. The bill’s provisions protecting workers from reprisals for filing a complaint disappear after 90 days.

The passage of the new law was the occasion for declarations of complacency on the part of the state’s main Democrats. “We cannot allow companies to put profit before people. The hard-working warehouse workers who have helped us support us during this unprecedented time should not have to risk injury or be punished because of operating quotas that violate basic health and safety, ” said millionaire California Governor Gavin Newsom.

The governor did not attempt to reconcile this statement of opposition to putting “the profit on the people” with the state’s reopening of schools in California, including the nation’s second largest school district in Los Angeles, USA. the middle of the pandemic. This grotesque experience of “herd immunity” has skyrocketed pediatric cases of COVID-19.

Rachel Michelin, head of the California Retailers Association, said she was “disappointed” with the passage of the law. Michelin has provocatively threatened that allowing workers to take federally imposed breaks “would exacerbate our current supply chain problems, increase the cost of living for all Californians and eliminate well-paying jobs.”

A day after the passage of Law AB 701, CNN reported on several former Amazon delivery service providers in the Portland, Oregon area that “were loaded with so many packages that some frustrated … drivers quit in the middle of their shifts. The report quotes Ryan Schmutzer, owner of a delivery van service who, “sometimes dragged his drivers through mental health issues” as a result of company pressure on workers during the pandemic.

According to an in-depth study New York Times report in June, “[e]Even before the pandemic… Amazon lost about 3% of its hourly associates every week, which means its workforce turnover was around 150% per year. According to the report, “[t]hat rates, almost double that of the retail and logistics industries, have raised concerns among some executives that they are running out of workers across America. “

The company’s operations grew exponentially during the pandemic, with the company posting a record profit of $ 21.3 billion in 2020, an increase of more than $ 17.4 billion in 2019. The financial results of the company in the second quarter of this year were more than 50% higher than the company. its total profit last year. The wealth of the company’s founder and former CEO, Jeff Bezos, has grown from $ 75 billion since the start of 2020 to more than $ 198 billion today.

Even before the pandemic, Amazon was known for unsafe conditions in its warehouses. A 2019 report, based on figures from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), found that Amazon workers were injured at a rate of nearly 3 to 1 compared to other private warehouse employers . A number of studies have returned similar results.

While the bill itself is little more than a cynical public relations exercise, it is another indication of the enormous anxiety within the American ruling class over the growth of the opposition d ‘at the bottom, workers angry at the criminal policies of both sides in the pandemic and emboldened by a shortage of manpower to advance their own demands. Hundreds of thousands of workers across the United States have voted or will vote soon to authorize the strike, including 60,000 workers in the entertainment industry and tens of thousands of nurses in the state of California. Additionally, there are growing signs of unrest within the industrial working class, many of whom have been forced to work for weeks without a single day off as companies desperately try to ramp up production despite shortages of resources. global supply.

To lock up this opposition and quell it before it threatens to become an organized movement against capitalist inequalities, the Democratic Party is seeking help from the unions. At Amazon, he led a campaign to set up a union at Amazon. “American capitalism needs the means to try to contain the upsurge of the class struggle and to impose social stability and ‘labor peace’ on it as it prepares for new wars,” World Socialist Website wrote last month.

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