Amazon tornado deaths tragically highlight America’s corporate philosophy

EDITORIAL


Amazon won’t let me leave until after the storm blows over.

Larry Virden, 46, who died last Friday.

WHEN workers can’t leave or be excused from attending their place of employment during a natural disaster, it usually signals one of two things about a company’s culture.

It’s either neglectful, or at worst, malicious.

Amazon is now facing questions over the deaths of Larry and five others in Illinois.

Larry’s girlfriend Cherie Jones told the New York Post: “I got text messages from him. He always tells me when he is filling up the Amazon truck when he is getting ready to go back … I was like ‘OK, I love you.’

“He’s like, ‘well Amazon won’t let me leave until after the storm blows over.”

“This never would have happened if they cared about lives over productivity,” the sister of one of the victims said on social media.

Marcos Ceniceros, an organizer at Warehouse Workers for Justice, said: “This is not the first time we’ve seen workers suffer at Amazon and we want to make sure that they’re not continuing to cut corners and putting workers at risk.”

According to Bloomberg, one driver was told to ‘keep driving’ despite multiple tornado warnings.

Whether Amazon provided adequate shelter or advised workers to seek safety from the tornado promptly enough isn’t the question here.

The shifts should never had gone ahead in the first place.

Paige Marquis, friend and former roommate of Clayton Lynn Cope, one of the workers who died, perhaps summed the feeling amongst grieving friends and family best.

“They all want to blame the building,” she said.

@But what about the response inside? They shouldn’t have had to keep working when they knew the storm was coming.”

There’s only one reason why Amazon have refused to shut down their warehouses even in the most extreme weather events in the US – whether it be the June heatwave, Hurricane Ida in September or the tornadoes ripping through Illinois.

The relentless pursuit of profit.

Amazon can send as many ‘thoughts and prayers’ as they like, but worker safety is automatically compromised by a refusal to sacrifice profit for human lives.

Covid-19 has supposedly empowered the worker (through labour shortages). But this is just the latest example of corporate culture manifesting itself in tragedy.

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said: “We’re deeply saddened by the news that members of our Amazon family passed away as a result of the storm in Edwardsville, IL. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their loved ones, and everyone impacted by the tornado.”

Amazon did not respond to requests for comment from Redaction Report on worker safety concerns.

With the ‘anti-work’ movement gaining a head of steam and union membership rising, there is hope that the humble worker can maintain some dignity. Otherwise, we will continue to see more and more of these stories.

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Featured Image: Leonhard Lenz @ Wikimedia Commons (CC0 1.0)

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