Amazon was accused of putting corporate profits above safety in the aftermath of the partial collapse of a St. Louis-area warehouse caused by a tornado that left at least six dead.
“Time and time again Amazon puts its bottom line above the lives of its employees,” saidStuart Appelbaum, president, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, released a statement. “Requiring workers to work through such a major tornado warning event as this was inexcusable.”
Appelbaum’s remarks came after an outbreakMore than 20 tornadoes that decimated multiple states and killed dozens of people late Friday caused widespread destruction. Affected states included Illinois, Arkansas, Kentucky and Mississippi, as well as Missouri, Missouri, and Tennessee.
Among the buildings struck was an Amazon facility in Edwardsville, Illinois — a community about 30 minutes from St. Louis. Local officials claimed Saturday that at least six people were killed by the collapse.
Local KMOV reported:
The roof fell as the walls collapsed inwardly on both sides. The walls, which were 40 feet tall and 11 inches thick, couldn’t withstand the tornado that struck the building Friday night.
The National Weather Service confirmed that the tornado was a category EF-3 and that it passed through Edwardsville on Friday night. Winds gusted up to 150 mph.
It is unknown at this time how many workers were inside the building when it collapsed. James Whiteford, Edwardsville Fire Chief saidLate Saturday, one person was seriously injured and 45 others were rescued at a press conference.
According toThe St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Saturday evening was the last day first responders were able to shift from emergency response to a recovery effort. While they would continue to go through the rubble during daylight hours over the next three days, Whiteford said he doesn’t know whether any other victims will be found inside.
Shortly before the facility was hit the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center warned of an increasing “damaging wind and tornado threat” for the area.
702pm CST: Technical discussion within Tornado Watch for portions of eastern Missouri and western Illinois including the St. Louis Metro area… the tornado and damaging wind threat is increasing. https://t.co/fiICIQyQF3 pic.twitter.com/63slr001FK
— NWS Storm Prediction Center (@NWSSPC) December 11, 2021
Some observers noted on social media that Amazon has not previously closed its warehouses in the face extreme weather events.
Amazon has repeatedly refused, over the past six months, to close down warehouses in the face of extreme weather conditions. The warehouse is reportedly causing injuries and even deaths. Fucking nightmare. https://t.co/uWnHxjCBh7
— Nantina Vgontzas (@nantarsya) December 11, 2021
This is the third consecutive time that Amazon workers have been forced to work in dangerous weather conditions in the past six months. Warehouse workers had to enter during record-breaking heat in the PNW, and the deadly Ida flooding in NYC. Just like those disaster, last night’s tornadoes were well forecast https://t.co/1gmUzYkJ9b
— Brian Kahn (@blkahn) December 11, 2021
“How many workers must die for Amazon to have a policy for extreme weather events?” sociologist Nantina Vgontzas tweeted Saturday. “It’s currently up to local management and this is clearly disastrous. Condolences to the families and survivors of this horrific, avoidable tragedy.”
In his statement, Appelbaum called the event “another outrageous example of the company putting profits over the health and safety of their workers, and we cannot stand for this.”
“Amazon cannot continue to be let off the hook for putting hardworking people’s lives at risk,” he said, vowing that his union would “not back down until Amazon is held accountable for these and so many more dangerous labor practices.”
Adding to the fresh scrutiny of the online giant’s labor practices, as Bloomberg reported Saturday, are its policies regarding employees’ mobile phone access. The following is a report:
Amazon had banned workers from carrying their phones to warehouse floors for many years. They were required to leave them in vehicles, employee lockers, or in the company car before they could pass through metal detectors-enforced security checks. The company stopped implementing it at its facilities throughout the country after the pandemic.
“After these deaths, there is no way in hell I am relying on Amazon to keep me safe,” one unnamed worker from another Amazon facility in Illinois told Bloomberg. “If they institute the no cell phone policy, I am resigning.”