Maloney, Bush, Ocasio-Cortez Launch Investigation into Amazon’s Labor Practices
Washington, D.C. (April 1, 2022)— Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Committee Members Reps. Cori Bush and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sent a letter to Andy Jassy, President and Chief Executive Officer of Amazon.com, seeking documents regarding Amazon’s labor practices, especially during severe weather events.
“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,” the Members wrote. “During the recent tornado strikes in Edwardsville, Illinois, six workers died after Amazon reportedly threatened employees and contractors with termination if they left work and sought safety during the dangerous storm. 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.”
On December 10 and 11, 2021, six people died while working at the Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois when a series of devastating tornadoes struck southern Illinois and several neighboring states.
In the days following the storms, allegations surfaced that Amazon employees and contractors were threatened by their supervisors with termination or other adverse employment consequences if they left work to seek adequate shelter and safety as the tornadoes approached.
Before he died in the Amazon warehouse collapse, Amazon employee Larry Virden texted his girlfriend, “Amazon won’t let us leave.”
According to dispatcher messages, a contract delivery driver located outside the Edwardsville facility who expressed concern about the growing storms was told by her supervisor to “just keep delivering, we can’t just call people back for a warning unless amazon [sic] tells us to do so.” When the driver reported continued tornado alarms and asked permission to seek safety, she was told such a choice “will ultimately end with you not having a job come tomorrow morning.”
Amazon workers were also reportedly required to stay on the job during deadly wildfires in California in 2018, extreme heat in the Pacific Northwest in Summer 2021, and dangerous flooding during Hurricanes Irma in 2017 and Ida in 2021. Amazon’s alleged lack of adequate health and safety measures for employees throughout the coronavirus pandemic has been the target of a lawsuit from New York Attorney General Letitia James.
“As our society continues to grapple with the global climate crisis, severe weather events will only grow in frequency and intensity,” the Members added. “In 2021, 40% of Americans lived in counties hit by extreme weather events. It is critical that employers like Amazon take the dangers of extreme weather seriously and prioritize worker safety over the corporate bottom line.”
The Committee is seeking, by April 14, 2022, documents and communications about the tragedy at Amazon’s Edwardsville facility, Amazon’s workplace policies and practices that may have prevented workers from staying safe, and Amazon’s actions in responding to other severe weather events and natural disasters.
Click here to read the letter to Amazon.