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Labor committee delivers warehouse worker safety bill to its next destination

Khali Jama describes her experiences as an Amazon warehouse floor worker Thursday to the House labor committee. Rep. Emma Greenman, left, sponsors a bill to increase worker safety requirements in Minnesota warehouses. (Photo by Catherine Davis)
Khali Jama describes her experiences as an Amazon warehouse floor worker Thursday to the House labor committee. Rep. Emma Greenman, left, sponsors a bill to increase worker safety requirements in Minnesota warehouses. (Photo by Catherine Davis)

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a package delivered from Amazon. Now keep it raised if you’ve thought about the rate of injuries among workers at Amazon warehouses in Minnesota.

From the perspective of Rep. Emma Greenman (DFL-Mpls) that rate is entirely too high, motivating her to sponsor HF36, which would address the issue of warehouse worker safety.

Approved Thursday by the House Labor and Industry Finance and Policy Committee on an 8-4 party-line vote, its next stop is the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee.

“All Minnesota workers deserve to be safe and respected at work,” Greenman said. “But here in Minnesota that is not the experience of many workers in Amazon warehouses.”

She referenced two statistics to support this claim: the injury rate at Amazon warehouses is 1.5 times greater than non-Amazon warehouses in Minnesota, and 1 in 10 Minnesota Amazon workers were injured on the job in 2021, 30% higher than the national average.

House Labor and Industry Finance and Policy Committee 1/12/23

The bill would establish new worker safety requirements for the warehouse industry. Among them would be clear communication of quotas to workers; prohibition of quota requirements that would deny workers meal, restroom, or prayer breaks; and affirmation of workers’ rights to access data related to their speed and performance.

The Department of Labor and Industry would be empowered to investigate potential violations of these standards at warehouses that are shown to have a 30% higher injury rate than the industry average.

Testifying in support of the bill were workers from both Amazon and non-Amazon warehouses, painting a stark contrast in working conditions.

Speaking through a translator, Barakale Mohamed discussed Amazon’s policy of “time off task,” which hinders workers’ ability to use the bathroom or pray on the job.

“They are not afforded the same protections or opportunities that I am,” said Rikki Schreiner, a member of Teamsters Local 638. “Amazon’s policy of churn and burn treats people as disposable resources to be used, abused, and tossed aside”.

Rep. Joe McDonald (R-Delano), while agreeing Amazon is not doing right by their workers, ultimately voted against what he considered a far-reaching proposal, arguing existing law should be used to hold the company accountable.

“We decide to bring a bill in that takes a sledgehammer to all other industries, when we really want to pick at one particular industry that is not treating its employees well,” McDonald said.


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