Amazon Scrutinized Over Workplace Safety after Tornado Collapses Warehouse

Amazon has faced concerns from the public about its health and safety rules after six warehouse workers were killed during the devastating tornado in Illinois.

On Friday evening, catastrophic storms ripped across six US states, killing about 100 people and destroying homes and businesses over a 200-mile (322-kilometer) radius. 

According to the National Weather Service, the storm grew fast as it approached the Amazon warehouse, with gusts reaching 150 miles per hour (241 kilometers per hour), tearing the roof off the football-field-sized facility. The 11-inch-thick (28-cm) concrete walls collapsed in on themselves.

Cherie Jones, the girlfriend of Larry Virden, one of the warehouse collapse victims said that Amazon’s management did not allow her partner to leave during the onset of the tornado. 

“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,” said Jones.

Amazon claimed that the Edwardsville site received a tornado warning through various alerts, and that site managers tried to get as many workers and partners into a designated shelter area.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, which is attempting to unionize Amazon workers across the United States, called the company’s requirement that staff labor despite the tornado warning “inexcusable.”

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