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Proposed Bill Would Add Burden to Warehouse Operators

A new U.S. Senate bill that purports to increase safety for warehouse workers would instead create a costly burden for warehouse operators with few real safety benefits, according to business advocacy groups.

Sens. Ed Market (D-MA, Tina Smith (D-MN) and Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the Warehouse Worker Protection Act earlier this month. The legislation would place new limits on work speed quotas, direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop an ergonomic management standard for warehouse workers and create new transparency requirements for quota systems.

FEDA previously joined other business advocacy groups and trade associations in signing a letter opposing a draft version of the bill. Business groups remain opposed to the published version of the bill. “This bill represents a costly and unnecessary threat to the U.S. economy, especially for wholesaler-distributors and small businesses,” said Brian Wild, chief government relations officer for the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors. “The bill’s quota requirements will negatively affect productivity across the supply chain, leading to delays and price hikes for consumers. It creates an unnecessary Fairness and Transparency Office within the Department of Labor, further entangling businesses in bureaucratic red tape and stifling their ability to expand and generate jobs.

“The bill includes provisions that inappropriately tip the scales to union bosses at the expense of employees and employers by inviting labor organizations to participate in investigations, essentially granting union leaders access to potentially coerce or harass worksites under the guise of ‘worker safety,’” Wild continued. “Finally, it revives the failed ergonomics standard, which was already invalidated by Congress in a bipartisan majority. The reasons behind the disapproval remain unchanged today.”

A statement from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce echoed concerns that the bill’s true purpose was to implement pieces of a “union wish list.” “The Warehouse Workers Protection Act would bring back the most odious and unworkable regulation the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ever issued, a standard regulating ergonomic hazards such as repetitive motions,” said Marc Freedman, vice president of workplace policy for the U.S. Chamber. “This would hold employers accountable for employee injuries or strains that happen outside the workplace, and force employers to redesign workplaces based on unproven theories about potential remedies.”

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