Amazon founder and owner of The Washington Post Jeff Bezos partied after a veteran, mothers, and fathers perished in one of his many warehouses when site leaders reportedly did not let the workers shelter in time before the building collapsed due to a tornado.
While the billionaire frolicked around the country, reportedly hosting an event in his Beverly Hills backyard after spending part of his weekend facilitating a Blue Origin space crew launch in Texas, at least six Amazon workers in Edwardsville, Illinois, died while seeking shelter from one of the dozens of deadly tornadoes that ripped through at least six states on Friday.
According to reports from one of the victim’s girlfriends, Amazon wouldn’t let any of the workers leave the facility.
“Well I will be home after the storm,” Larry Virden, 46, reportedly texted his girlfriend. “Amazon won’t let us leave.”
Other reports from the sister of a Navy veteran who spent his last moments trying to warn his coworkers to take cover suggest that Amazon did not allow employees to seek shelter in designated areas even after the first tornado siren went off. After the building collapsed due to the storm, more than 45 people were rescued from the ruins.
“I’d want people to know that he died saving the lives of people in that building because of Amazon’s negligence to take the tornado sirens seriously and choosing the productivity of their company over their employees,” 29-year-old Clayton Cope’s sister told The Daily Mail. “My brother is a hero.”
29-year old Clayton Cope rushed to save the lives of his co-workers and warn them about the tornado. He was killed when the warehouse collapsed.
"At least I did get to say I love you," his mother told the local news. pic.twitter.com/RexbmqoM5H
— More Perfect Union (@MorePerfectUS) December 13, 2021
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced over the weekend that it would investigate the deadly collapse and spend up to six months determining whether the online retail giant will be cited, penalized, or fined for its actions or lack of action on the day of the weather event.
Shortly after the tragedy, Amazon’s Worldwide Consumer CEO Dave Clark tweeted that he sent his “thoughts and prayers” to those affected by the tornadoes and the warehouse collapse.
Thoughts and prayers going out to our team in Edwardsville tonight and thank you to all the first responders.
— Dave Clark (@davehclark) December 11, 2021
We’re continuing to provide support to our employees and partners in the area and across the communities affected by the storms. We also want to thank all of the first responders for their ongoing efforts on the scene.
— Dave Clark (@davehclark) December 11, 2021
Some Amazon employees, however, were unimpressed with the company’s tweets and called attention to other dangerous Amazon policies that could put workers’ lives at risk, such as the recently reinstated cell phone ban that was relaxed during the height of the 2020 COVID-19 surge.
“After these deaths, there is no way in hell I am relying on Amazon to keep me safe,” one Amazon worker from another Illinois warehouse told Bloomberg. “If they institute the no cell phone policy, I am resigning.”
“After this, everyone is definitely afraid of not being able to keep their phones on them,” another worker added. “Most employees that I’ve talked to don’t keep their phones on them for personal conversation throughout the day, It’s genuinely for situations like this.”
Amazon workers aren’t the only ones calling attention to the company’s mistreatment of its employees. Legislators such as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., have expressed interest in launching investigations into Amazon’s long history of dangerous labor practices.
“There are plenty of American businesses that are loyal to our country, respect their employees and want the best for their communities, but Amazon is not one of them,” Rubio said in a statement in October. “The company has more than enough resources to be the country’s self-appointed woke censor — banning conservative books and blocking traditional charities from participating in its AmazonSmile program — but apparently not enough to properly administer benefits owed to its employees.”
“Amazon does not deserve the benefit of the doubt,” Rubio continued, “which is why I am calling on President Biden to investigate these claims. For too long, massive companies headquartered in America have taken advantage of our laws to the detriment of working men and women. We cannot allow that to continue.”