Technology

Democrats press Amazon about fatal warehouse collapse

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
First responders work outside an Amazon fulfillment center after it was heavily damaged when a strong thunderstorm moved through the area Friday, Dec. 10, 2021, in Edwardsville, Ill.

Democrats are pressing Amazon for answers about company safety protocols after six people died at an Illinois warehouse that was hit by a tornado. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) led a group of Democrats in a letter Monday asking the e-commerce giant for details about its policies and actions both at the Edwardsville, Ill., facility and nationwide. 

“Amazon profits should never come at the cost of workers’ lives, health, and safety,” the Democrats wrote. 

“These reports of Amazon’s workplace safety failures at the Edwardsville facility are disturbing when considered alone. But they fit all too well with an ongoing, company-wide pattern of worker mistreatment, including neglecting worker safety, shortchanging workers on proper pay and benefits, and employing union-busting tactics towards workers when they have tried to organize for better working conditions,” the Democrats added. 

Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, said the company is “reviewing the letter and will respond directly,” but right now is focusing on “taking care of our employees and partners, the family members of those killed by the tornado, and the communities affected by this tragedy.”

The pressure from Democrats comes a week after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said it would be investigating the fatal collapse

In their letter, Democrats accuse Amazon of using an “inhumane business model” and a pattern of having workers come in during extreme weather events. The Democrats point to Amazon leaving warehouses open during Hurricane Ida in September despite flooding in New York and leaving them open during the deadly wildfires in California in 2018. 

The Democrats also accuse Amazon of launching anti-union campaigns. In November, the National Labor Relations Board ordered a new union election at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., after allegations were filed against the company’s initial victory. 

The lawmakers are asking Amazon for details about internal communications with workers about the tornado, as well as about the company’s policies on fire, tornado and severe weather safety at warehouses. 

Amazon spokesperson Alisa Carroll previously said that the team at the Edwardsville facility “immediately moved to ensure all team members went to the designated shelter in place locations” when local authorities issued the tornado warning. 

Reportedly some workers at the facility had been sheltering in bathrooms at the warehouse, and several employees told Reuters that managers had directed them to shelter in bathrooms.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Amazon Cori Bush Elizabeth Warren Occupational Safety and Health Administration tornado warning

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