Working at Amazon, especially in their packed warehouses, is known to be grueling and troublesome. Especially during the beginning of the pandemic, employees in different Amazon warehouses staged walkouts to protest the company breaking COVID-safety policies. A devastating collapse at one of the facilities has sparked new outrage, with calls from political figures for the tech company to be appropriately reprimanded.
At the end of December 2021, a tornado hit an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois. The devastating tornado destroyed the warehouse entirely, killing six workers. After almost six months, politicians, including senators and members of Congress, want to figure out what happened at this Amazon facility. These politicians wrote a letter to Amazon’s former CEO Jeff Bezos and the current CEO Andy Jessy with questions examining the workers’ deaths. Since the letter received an unsatisfactory response from both men, a new letter has been penned attempting to get these executives legally reprimanded.
The recent exposure of Amazon’s emergency safety plans might get the company indicted for its workers’ fatalities. The most recent letter was written by politicians Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Cori Bush, explaining how Bezos should be responsible for the Edwardsville incident. Bezos and Jessy’s abysmal response to OSHA violations presented in April has sparked outrage amongst politicians and the general public.
A few pieces of evidence have stuck out in the OSHA violations reports, especially the evidence around the tornado incident. Many workers who participated in the report stated that they were unaware of Amazon’s emergency safety plan. Regarding the Edwardsville tornado incident, not properly knowing the safety plan led workers to an undesignated bathroom. Since the bathroom did not meet the security criteria, those hiding there were unnecessarily injured by the natural disaster.
A text received from an Amazon worker who died in the tornado incident also brought to light inhumane practices at the company. Larry Virden, a man who perished in the Edwardsville incident, texted his girlfriend shortly before the incident occurred. The text read, “Amazon won’t let us leave.” Though this hasn’t been officially confirmed, it’s not out of the ordinary for Amazon, a company that’s faced multiple controversies surrounding worker violations.
Though these revelations show Amazon’s insufficient safety training procedures, executives at the tech company refuted that claim. Amazon’s vice president of public policy, Brian Husman, stated that safety was a top priority for the company, which included training for “weather events.” Husman referred to Amazon’s emergency action plan, which is displayed on the company’s website. Husman also exclaimed that delivery drivers, and other contracted workers, are extensively prepped on safety protocol.
Husman and other Amazon executives can claim that the company’s safety training is good enough, but OSHA’s report disagrees unequivocally. After its April investigation, OSHA found through worker interviews that there were significant shortcomings in crisis training and general safety understanding. Many interviewed workers did not know the proper rooms to shelter in place or could recall when they participated in emergency exit drills.
OSHA’s thorough investigation raises new issues for the massive tech corporation. Amazon’s inability to provide proper safety training, including mask-wearing and social distancing, could bring forth considerable legal repercussions against former and current executives.