Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Government is investigating Amazon’s severe weather rules after deaths

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The House Committee on Oversight and Reform has launched an investigation into Amazon’s labor practices around severe weather, focusing on the company’s Illinois warehouse, where six people were killed in a tornado attack last winter.

The commission wants to receive documents and communication data from Amazon within the next two weeks, according to a letter signed by Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Cori Bush (D-MO) and sent Thursday to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy.

The letter cites reports that Amazon threatened to fire employees if they left work as the tornado swept through the area and that delivery drivers were not allowed to call back drivers without Amazon’s approval, even when there was an active tornado warning. The storm eventually struck an Amazon warehouse, which collapsed, killing six people.

The committee is seeking a comprehensive body of information from Amazon — the letter asks for documents on the company’s emergency preparedness requirements, the exercises it conducted in Edwardsville, and logs of “all communications between executives, employees or contractors regarding employment responsibilities and company protocol during the severe weather conditions”, among others.

Lawmakers also want documentation of Amazon’s internal assessments or investigations into the events in Edwardsville, as well as information about any discipline faced by employees and contractors in Illinois and other locations. Amazon is requested to submit the documents by April 14.

Lawmakers also raise concerns raised in other Amazon warehouses — some of the inquiries relate to Amazon personnel being told to continue working during California wildfires, extreme heatwaves in Washington and Oregon, and hurricanes in 2017 and 2018 .

This isn’t the first government investigation into Amazon’s warehouse practices in Edwardsville. Two groups of lawmakers sent letters asking for answers in December, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) opened its own investigation.

Amazon did not respond immediately The Verges request for comment, but one of his spokespersons told The New York Times: “Our focus remains on supporting our employees and partners, the families who have lost loved ones, the surrounding community and everyone affected by the tornadoes. We will respond to this letter in due course.”

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