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Lawmakers want answers from Jeff Bezos, Andy Jassy over deaths of 6 Amazon workers in warehouse collapse

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Amazon CEO Andy Jassy (left) and founder Jeff Bezos.
Mike Blake/Reuters; Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images
  • 23 US lawmakers sent a letter to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy and chair Jeff Bezos on Monday.
  • The letter addressed the collapse of an Amazon warehouse after it was hit by a tornado last week, killing six workers.
  • The lawmakers posed 26 questions about the warehouse's safety protocols and policies.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

A group of 23 US lawmakers sent a scorching letter to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy and Founder Jeff Bezos on Monday demanding answers about the collapse of an Amazon warehouse after it was hit by a tornado last week, killing six workers.

Signatories on the letter included Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.

"We are writing to express our grave concern regarding Amazon's anti-worker policies that prioritise profits over worker safety, and appear to have contributed to the tragic deaths of six workers at your Edwardsville, Illinois, warehouse on December 10, 2021," the lawmakers wrote.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration opened an investigation into the collapse of the facility's roof on December 13.

In their letter, the Democratic lawmakers expressed concerns over various news reports linked to the Edwardsville warehouse, including one report that a driver was instructed to keep driving through the high winds or else face termination. Amazon had said in reponse to the report that the dispatcher — the third-party company through which it contracted the driver — should not have instructed her to keep driving.

The lawmakers did not accept this as an excuse. "This incident calls into question Amazon's reliance on contractors and its formal and informal policies that pressure continuous work, no matter the cost," they wrote.

The letter also said the building's collapse raises questions about whether it was built to code, and cited reports from Amazon workers across the US expressing worries about a lack of safety drills.

As well as focusing on the collapse at Edwardsville, the lawmakers said Amazon's overarching working conditions were cause for concern.

"These reports of Amazon's workplace safety failures at the Edwardsville facility are disturbing when considered alone," the lawmakers wrote. "But they fit all too well with an ongoing, company-wide pattern of worker mistreatment, including neglecting worker safety, shortchanging workers on proper pay and benefits, and employing union-busting tactics towards workers when they have tried to organise for better working conditions."

The letter concludes with a list of 26 questions specifically about the Edwardsville warehouse, including what internal communication took place ahead of and during the storm, what the warehouse's safety policies are, and whether workers are allowed to have their phones on them

The lawmakers asked Amazon to provide answers by January 3.

Amazon did not immediately comment when contacted by Insider. A spokesperson told CNBC said the company is reviewing the letter. In a statement last week, Amazon described the collapse as "a devastating tragedy for our Amazon family."

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