Amazon lobbies to exempt workers from labor protections

WJ Wire

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OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Lots of Amazon’s Seattle-area workers can be exempt from new labor protections in a invoice handed by the state Senate after lobbyists for the tech large pushed to vary a key threshold within the guidelines.

The protections would partially prohibit non-compete clauses — controversial agreements utilized by tech corporations and others to dam workers from going to work for opponents or launching rival startups.

Lawmakers say Amazon lobbied to have the earnings threshold set at a stage that might doubtless exempt many staff in Seattle.

The trouble got here as the corporate has expanded its presence within the state capital, the place its spending has tripled in recent times.

The invoice handed the Washington state Senate Tuesday with the wage threshold of $100,000 sought by Amazon. Workers above the edge can be exempted from the labor safety.

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The median wage for Amazon workers in Seattle is about $113,000, in response to, an organization that tracks prime companies.

Different provisions require some protections for staff making greater than $100,000, together with an 18-month restrict on any non-compete clauses they signal and a requirement that staff should be compensated whereas they’re barred from working.

The measure now heads to the state Home for consideration.

Hundreds of thousands of U.S. staff signal non-compete agreements. A handful of states, together with California, prohibit such agreements.

Different corporations joined talks surrounding the Washington state invoice, in addition to teams such because the Affiliation of Washington Enterprise and the Washington State Hospital Affiliation.

They had been additionally involved with retaining commerce secrets and techniques and mental property however remained open to blocking using non-compete agreements for lower-paid staff.

Democratic Sens. Marko Liias of Lynwood and Rep. Derek Stanford of Bothell, sponsors of the Home and Senate variations of the invoice, mentioned Amazon made the decrease threshold a precedence.

“They’ve loads of clout,” Stanford mentioned. “Amazon was saying, if it’s above this quantity, we’re opposed.

Amazon held off on endorsing a earlier measure over the identical situation, even after Microsoft signed off, Stanford mentioned.

Stanford, who submitted an modification to decrease the edge in his invoice to the extent requested by Amazon, mentioned it got here all the way down to easy arithmetic: The opposition of a significant employer within the state would flip votes in opposition to the invoice.

Amazon defended its lobbying effort.

“Like another enterprise, we work with elected officers in order that they perceive how proposed rules will affect our greater than 50,000 workers and the expansion of our enterprise within the state,” firm spokesman Aaron Toso mentioned.

Republican Sen. Curtis King of Yakima voted for the measure and later mentioned the edge was acceptable and would assist companies safeguard their mental property whereas accommodating low-wage staff.

Amazon’s push on the invoice got here after the corporate tripled spending on lobbying within the state capital, at the side of a extra assertive stance towards metropolis governments across the nation.

Final yr, the corporate joined an aggressive effort that helped repeal a enterprise tax in Seattle.

In 2017, the corporate dangled high-paying jobs and billions of {dollars} in funding as incentives for cities to host its new headquarters. Municipalities rapidly turned to tax breaks and different profitable incentives to lure the corporate.

In Washington state, the corporate’s spending on lobbyists jumped from $114,000 in 2014 to $358,000 in 2016, in response to Amazon’s filings with the state Public Disclosure Fee. It spent $679,000 in 2017 and $333,000 in 2018.

That places it behind Microsoft however forward of Google and Fb in spending on lobbying within the state.

The Related Press contributed to this report.

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