Warren, Bush, Ocasio-Cortez Blast Amazon’s “Wholly Inadequate Safety Culture” Reflected in Lackluster Responses to Questions about Edwardsville Warehouse Collapse
Amazon Responses to Congress Were Not Consistent with OSHA Inspection Findings
Lawmakers: “The OSHA inspection and your response to our letter indicate that Amazon will do only the bare minimum – and sometimes less than that – to keep its workers safe. Additionally, ongoing evidence of worker exploitation and injury indicate that Amazon puts worker safety at risk in emergencies and day-to-day situations alike.”
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representatives Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) sent a letter Amazon’s Executive Chairman, Jeff Bezos, and its President and CEO, Andy Jassy, blasting the company for its lackluster responses and failure to answer their questions from a letter in December 2021 about the circumstances and policies that led to the collapse of an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois that killed six workers. Amazon’s responses, which the lawmakers are releasing – along with the completed Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation into the Edwardsville collapse – reveal major inconsistencies between their responses and the official investigation, demonstrating that Amazon only does the bare minimum to protect its workers.
“Although Amazon told us in its January 3, 2022 response that ‘safety is our top priority,’ the OSHA findings revealed glaring gaps in Amazon’s safety procedures, including flawed safety training, inadequate emergency procedures, and the inability of Amazon managers to follow the procedures that were in place. These findings reveal a wholly inadequate safety culture at Amazon, which potentially contributed to the death of six workers and, if not addressed, will continue to put thousands more workers across the country at risk,” wrote the lawmakers.
While Amazon told the lawmakers that “all Amazon employees, whether they are with us full-time, part-time, or just for a season, receive extensive safety training on their first day and throughout their time with the company,” the investigation from OSHA identified major gaps in training, including no training in severe weather or shelter-in-place drills and workers unaware of tornado shelter sites.
The lawmakers also requested that Amazon provide its complete Edwardsville Emergency Action Plan, which it neglected to do. The OSHA investigation again found major gaps in the Edwardsville Plan that did not contain specific instructions about the location of the facility, including for hurricanes, which Edwardsville would not experience. The plan did not identify the location of the designated shelter area in the facility.
Finally, the lawmakers raised concerns about Amazon managers’ inability to follow emergency procedures in place at Edwardsville. Amazon told the lawmakers, “we believe that our protocols were followed in accordance with OSHA standards and guidance, and Amazon training,” but the OSHA investigation revealed that Amazon managers were not able to fully communicate with workers and implement the Emergency Action Plan because their megaphone was locked in a cage.
Amazon’s responses to the lawmakers and the OSHA investigation’s findings reveal that Amazon’s rhetoric about safety did not match the reality that workers experienced in Edwardsville. Left unaddressed, Amazon’s failures in safety and ongoing evidence of worker exploitation and injury puts thousands of warehouse workers at risk.
Senator Warren and Representatives Bush and Ocasio-Cortez are calling on Amazon to immediately correct these failures in safety and to comply with the investigation of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform into the Edwardsville disaster – specifically, the Committee's March 31, 2022 request for documents.
Senator Warren is a leader in the fight to protect workers’ rights and prevent workers from being exploited by huge corporations.
- In March 2022, Senators Warren, Sanders, Booker, Blumenthal, and Representatives Ocasio-Cortez and Bush sent a letter to the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), urging them to investigate Amazon’s “Attendance Points Policy”, which punishes workers for taking legally-protected leave.
- In February 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) reintroduced the Schedules that Work Act to help ensure that low-wage employees have more certainty about their work schedules and income.
- In February 2022, Senator Warren and Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rosa DeLauro, Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Katie Porter (D-Calif.) reintroduced the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights Act to strengthen protections for part-time workers and allow them to better balance their work schedules with personal and family needs.
- In December 2021, Senator Warren and Representatives Cori Bush and Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez sent a letter to Amazon, demanding answers about the circumstances and failure in safety policies that led to the death of six employees after an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois collapsed during a tornado.
- In April 2020, Senator Warren and Representative Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) proposed an Essential Workers Bill of Rights, which includes universal paid sick leave and family and medical leave.
- Senator Warren is an original cosponsor of the 2020 PAID Leave Act, legislation that would provide universal paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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