The head of the state Assembly Labor Committee said he stands by legislation to improve safety protections for warehouse and retail workers and to expand New York's workers' compensation program as business leaders urge Gov. Kathy Hochul to veto the measures.

Labor unions want the governor to sign a bill requiring warehouses with more than 100 workers to come up with a workplace safety plan and reduce a surge in accidents. The Warehouse Worker Injury Reduction Act would mandate an annual hazard analysis and embolden the state Labor Department to enforce safety standards. 

New York warehouses have an injury rate that's 50% above the national average — which has more than doubled since 2017, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor data.

"It's just too much — it's way too much," said Thomas Quackenbush, president of Teamsters Local 294 in Albany. "It's the greed of corporate America, I believe, that has been holding us back."

Workers would have increased access to safety programs and trained medical professionals if the bill becomes law.

Quackenbush said warehouses owned by large corporations prioritize profits over employees and pointed to reports of worker abuse at an Amazon warehouse in Rensselaer County.

"Right now, [it's] 'Here, take an ibuprofen and come back tomorrow to work,' " Quackenbush said. "That's just not good enough. We can do a lot better."

Business leaders have concerns the proposed changes will place undue burdens on employers. 

Frank Kerbein, director of the Human Resources Center with the state Business Council, said the safety change is unnecessary because of existing state and federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration laws.

"No one argues we should mitigate and reduce injuries in the workplace, but you can't make something more 'illegal-er' than it already is," Kerbein said. "It's already unlawful to put someone in harm's way that way."

Assembly Labor Committee chair Harry Bronson argues the state's elevated rate of warehouse injuries show OSHA's requirements do not effectively protect workers.

"The data speaks for itself," Bronson told Spectrum News 1. "When you have injured workers, they lose time, there's less productivity and you have to replace them. This should be a measure that employers should welcome."

The state Business Council is campaigning against a bill passed at the end of session to require retail employers to develop a workplace violence prevention plan to reduce being the target of theft rings. It would also mandate large employers install a panic button to instantly call 911 and emergency services. 

Business leaders also want Hochul to veto legislation headed to her desk to expand workers' compensation for injuries related to extraordinary work-related stress, arguing the change is too broad and expensive for businesses.

Bronson said the change is needed for workers like first responders who suffer from similar stress and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"You still have to have a showing of that causative effect that an injury occurred and it occurred as a result of my work," Bronson said.

The assemblyman added the change will better protect workers and employers and prevents personal injury litigation. 

"There are ways we can save costs and workers compensation, and it doesn't have to be on the backs of workers and it doesn't have to be by reducing their benefits," Bronson said.

Bronson said he looks forward to working with Hochul's office when the legislation is called to her desk for review. She has until the end of the year to make a decision.

Last year, Gov. Hochul vetoed changes to the state's workers compensation laws, including a bill that would have changed the definition of temporary total disability, citing the high cost of the change and negative impact it would have on businesses across the state.