Good afternoon, Chairwoman Sumter and members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.
I’m Nicole Rodriguez, Research Director and incoming President of New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP). NJPP is a nonpartisan think tank focused on state-level policies that advance economic, racial, and social justice for New Jersey residents.
All working people deserve to be safe on the job. But, as our report points out, people who work at Amazon are far too often not safe. As Amazon grows into the state’s largest private employer, the injury crisis in its facilities is accelerating. In New Jersey, the total recordable injury rate among Amazon warehouse employees was 5.8 per 100 workers in 2021 compared to 3.8 per 100 workers in 2020. This is more than a 50 percent increase.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg — many injuries go unreported or are not investigated by OSHA.
New Jersey isn’t alone. Across the country, Amazon work is far more dangerous than work in comparable industries, as revealed by employer data reported to OSHA: Injury rates among Amazon workers nationwide were almost twice as high as the injury rate among all other warehouse employers in 2021.
What makes New Jersey unique, however, is the rate of growth of Amazon facilities and workers in the state. The number of Amazon’s New Jersey employees grew from 5,500 to 49,000, a nearly 800 percent increase, in the past five years. We are now home to 53 Amazon facilities, and there are plans to expand operations at Newark Airport.
New Jersey is fast becoming Amazon’s staging ground to build and strengthen its presence across the country. Amazon needs our public assets — our roads, highways, and ports — which unfortunately exacerbates pollution. Now they need the airport, where Amazon is trying to build an air hub without public input.
But, ultimately, they need our workers. And we need enforceable standards to protect our workers.
Good employers already provide this. But Amazon has proved over and over that it doesn’t prioritize the very workers that bring its company success.
This needs to change.
Amazon workers shouldn’t have to risk injury to help New Jersey residents receive packages rapidly.
These workers deserve passage of legislation that will mandate health and safety protections for workers. In this spirit, we recommend the following:
- Workers should be allowed to form health and safety committees in each worksite to create and run safety training programs as well as monitor, review, and collaborate with employers on all workplace health and safety policies. New York State passed the Health and Essential Rights Act or “Hero’s Act” in 2021, which allows for just this. Workers know best how to protect themselves, and it would benefit Amazon to listen to them.
- Unreasonably high productivity quotas contribute to on-the-job injuries. We need a regulatory framework that addresses harmful management practices. Workers should have the right to refuse to work if they feel unsafe, as well as protection from retaliation when raising concerns, and transparency in quotas.
- Finally, we should establish strong penalties and enforcement mechanisms to promote compliance. Strong enforcement levels the playing field for businesses that do comply with the law.
If the pandemic taught us anything, it is our collective responsibility to keep each other safe. Workers and good employers can’t do this alone.
Thank you for your time.