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'The Algorithm Fired Me': California Bill Takes on Amazon's Notorious Work Culture


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activists and supporters of Amazon workers at a May 2021 protest in Santa Monica

Activists want Amazon to be more accountable to workers, whose on-the-job injury rate is nearly twice that of the warehouse industry generally.

Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

A bill passed by the California Assembly would challenge Amazon's algorithm-driven warehouse culture.

Assembly Bill 701 would require warehouses to detail quotas and work speed metrics to workers and government agencies; prohibit "time off task" penalties, such as bathroom use, that harm health and safety; and ban retaliation against dissident employees. The bill seeks to address issues of warehouse computer-directed productivity and work speed demands that have caused serious worker injuries, as well as algorithmically directed terminations based on metrics that Amazon discloses to neither the public nor employees.

The legislation's implications could be broad. "In the U.S., we are at an inflection point on the question of how technologies are used in workplaces and what rights workers have to data collected about them," says Beth Gutelius at The University of Illinois at Chicago.

Opposition to the bill by retailers and other industries is likely to make for a close vote in California's Senate.

From Los Angeles Times
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