“Unforgivable”: Amazon warehouse collapse caused at least 6 deaths
Andrea Germanos was originally published in Common dream
After a tornado caused a partial collapse of a warehouse in the St. Louis area and killed at least six people, Amazon was accused on Saturday of putting company profits above worker safety.
“Amazon has put its bottom line above the lives of its employees time and time again,” Say Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), said in a statement. “It is unforgivable to require workers to work during such a major tornado warning event.”
Appelbaum’s speech was in outbreak Late Friday, more than 20 devastating tornadoes swept across multiple states, killing dozens of people. In addition to Illinois, the affected states include Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.
The buildings that were attacked included the Amazon facility in Edwardsville, Illinois, a neighborhood about 30 minutes from St. Louis. Local officials said on Saturday that at least six people had died in the collapse.
Local KMOV Report:
The walls on both sides of the building collapsed inward, causing the roof to collapse. The 11-inch-thick, 40-foot-high wall cannot withstand the tornado that hit the building on Friday night.
The National Weather Service confirmed that it was an EF-3 tornado that passed through Edwardsville on Friday night. Wind speeds are as high as 150 miles per hour.
The number of workers in the building at the time of the collapse has not yet been determined.Edwardsville Fire Chief James Whiteford Say At a press conference later on Saturday, one person was injured and 45 people were rescued.
according to This St. Louis Post:
By Saturday night, first responders had switched from emergency response to resume work. For the next three days, they will continue to walk through the rubble during the day, but Whiteford said he does not know if any other victims will be found inside.
Shortly before the facility was hit, the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center warn The “threat of destructive winds and tornadoes” is increasing in the area.
CST 702 pm: Technical discussions on parts of eastern Missouri and western Illinois (including the St. Louis metropolitan area) are in tornado observation…the threat of tornadoes and destructive winds is increasing. https://t.co/fiICIQyQF3 pic.twitter.com/63slr001FK
-NWS Storm Forecast Center (@NWSSPC) December 11, 2021
As some observers pointed out on social media, Amazon had previously failed to close warehouses in the face of extreme weather events:
In the past six months, Amazon has repeatedly refused to close warehouses during extreme weather events: heat waves in June, Ida in September, and now tornadoes. There are reports of injuries and deaths in the warehouse. Damn nightmare. https://t.co/uWnHxjCBh7
-Nantina Vgontzas (@nantarsya) December 11, 2021
This is the third time in six months that Amazon employees have worked on roads in deadly weather. During the record high temperatures of PNW and the deadly Ida flood in New York City, warehouse workers also had to enter.Like those disasters, the tornado last night was well forecasted https://t.co/1gmUzYkJ9b
— Brian Kahn (@blkahn) December 11, 2021
“How many workers must Amazon die to make policies against extreme weather events?” Sociologist Nantina Vgontzas Tweet Saturday. “At the moment it depends on the local management, which is obviously disastrous. Condolences to the families and survivors of this terrible and avoidable tragedy.”
In his statement, Appelbaum called this incident “another heinous example of the company putting profits above the health and safety of its employees, and we cannot tolerate this.”
“Amazon cannot continue to get away with impunity for putting the lives of hard-working people at risk,” he said, vowing that his union “will not back down until Amazon is responsible for these and more dangerous labor practices.”
Added a new review of the labor practices of the online giant because BloombergReport Saturday is its policy on employee mobile phone access. From the report:
For years, Amazon has banned workers from carrying mobile phones on the warehouse floor, requiring them to leave their phones in vehicles or employee lockers before passing security checks, including metal detectors. The company withdrew during the pandemic, but has gradually reintroduced it in facilities across the country.
“After these deaths, I have no way to rely on Amazon to ensure my safety,” an unnamed worker from another Amazon factory in Illinois told Bloomberg“If they make a policy that prohibits the use of mobile phones, I will resign.”