Congress Seeks Amazon’s Labor-Practice Records After Tornado That Killed Six

By Spencer Soper | April 1, 2022

A Congressional committee wants Inc. to share details about its labor practices during extreme weather events, following a tornado that killed six employees in December when it ripped through an Amazon facility in Edwardsville, Illinois.

The letter from the House Oversight Committee to Amazon Chief Executive Officer Andy Jassy asks the online retailer to provide by April 14 records about its emergency preparedness drills as well as communication between managers and front line workers and contractors during the December tornado. The committee also seeks information regarding Amazon facilities during extreme weather events in Florida, New York, California, Alabama and New York from as far back as 2017.

“We are concerned by recent reports that Amazon may be putting the health and safety of its workers at risk, including by requiring them to work in dangerous conditions during tornadoes, hurricanes, and other extreme weather,” according to the letter, which was signed by committee chair Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, and fellow Democratic committee members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Cori Bush of Missouri. “As one of our country’s largest and most profitable corporations, it is imperative that Amazon protect workers’ safety and refrain from practices that could put them in danger.”

The letter dated March 31 cites several news reports highlighting worker concerns in the aftermath of the deadly tornado, including a Bloomberg News story that exposed a text exchange between an Amazon package delivery driver and her boss, who told the driver she’d be fired if she didn’t continue making deliveries. The driver responded that she feared her van would become her casket.

“Our focus continues to be on supporting our employees and partners, the families who lost loved ones, the surrounding community, and all those affected by the tornadoes,” Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said in an emailed statement. “We will respond to this letter in due course.”

The committee letter attributes an increase in extreme weather events to global climate change and says it’s considering legislation to strengthen worker protections in hazardous weather conditions.

About the photo: Safety personnel and first responders survey a damaged Amazon Distribution Center on Dec. 11, 2021 in Edwardsville, Illinois. According to reports, the Distribution Center was struck by a tornado Friday night. Emergency vehicles arrived to start rescue operations for workers believed to be trapped inside. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

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