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Father texts his family before being killed in the warehouse collapse – “Amazon won’t let me leave”

The tornado that raged in Illinois ended up tearing through an Amazon warehouse on Friday. This caused the establishment to collapse, killing six workers. Even this time, there were several tornado warnings but despite that, the company did not instruct the employee to remain home. The employees are now demanding better safety practices to avoid a calamity like the one that happened.

Larry Virden, who had been employed by Amazon for five months was one of the six employees who lost their lives. Cherie Jones, who was Virden’s girlfriend recounted that he was texting her shortly before. “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,'” as per reports.

She also mentioned that her boyfriend has texted her 16 minutes prior to the touching down of the tornado, and that would have been enough time for him to get home as they lived a 13-minute drive away. “We heard the tornado didn’t touch down until 8:39 so he had 20 minutes to get home,” she said.  

A day following this tragedy, a furious Amazon employee in a fulfillment center in Indiana revealed how their employers took no action to make sure they were better prepared for such natural disasters.

Taking to the internal message board on Saturday afternoon, they wrote, “I know it’s the weekend and Amazon was busy blasting Michael Strahan and other wealthy people into space but can we get any kind of statement about the ‘mass casualty incident’ in Illinois.” The employee added, “I feel something could be said or a plan of action to review tornado and [severe] weather safety could be announced,” as “we had tornado touchdowns not far” from the Indiana fulfillment center.

This complaint was just one of many that had been posted on the company’s “Voice of Associates” internal message board. It’s clear from the messages that Amazon employees are extremely concerned about the lack of workplace safety not just due to extreme weather but also work hazards in general. 

Several workers, who wished to remain anonymous, said that they never had a tornado or even a fire drill for that matter in the due course of their six-year career. Naturally, they are concerned about their safety as they are unsure as to what they should do in case of an emergency. Previously, an Amazon contractor asked to return home early fearing the devastating impact of Hurricane Ida. Instead of allowing them to be safe, they were told leaving early would adversely affect their performance quota. 

“I have been here six and a half years and have never once been involved in a tornado safety drill on my shift, as well as have not taken part in a fire safety drill in about two years. This whole situation has got me thinking our site really needs to revise its safety drills because you never know when disaster and tragedy can strike,” shared another. A former employee LeeAnn Webster who served on the safety committee in Kent, Washington said that she repeatedly expressed her concerns surrounding safety to the management but was often rebuffed. 

The 48-year-old added that safety drills, which “are the most important part of safety” as “It gives you a sense of where you’re supposed to go, and completing the task even in a simulated situation can prepare your body and mind to remain calm,” had been lacking at Amazon for several years. “This incident calls into question so much of Amazon’s practices in their warehouses,” said Marcos Ceniceros, who is an organizer at Warehouse Workers for Justice, according to reports.

“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,” added Ceniceros. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched a six-month investigation into the Edwardsville warehouse collapse. Meanwhile, an Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in an email, “Emergency response training is provided to new employees and that training is reinforced throughout the year.”