The House Committee on Oversight and Reform has opened an investigation into Amazon’s labor practices during severe weather, according to a letter the members sent to Andy Jassy, Amazon’s chief executive.
“We are concerned about recent reports that Amazon may be endangering the health and safety of its workers, including requiring them to work in hazardous conditions during tornadoes, hurricanes, and other extreme weather conditions,” indicates the letter, signed by the chair of the committee. , Representative Carolyn B. Maloney of New York, as well as Representatives Cori Bush of Missouri and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. All are Democrats.
The investigation will focus on the December tornado that hit Amazon’s delivery station in Edwardsville, Illinois, killing six people. Most of the facility’s employees were not direct Amazon employees. They were contracted delivery drivers, a complication that hampered the response when authorities could not easily determine how many people were at the scene. The facility did not have a tornado safe which was not required by building code.
At least one subcontractor driver I was told to keep delivering during the storm, according to text messages published by Bloomberg News. Amazon said the contractor’s dispatcher failed to follow its security protocols.
“Our goal remains to support our employees and partners, the families who have lost loved ones, the surrounding community, and everyone affected by the tornadoes,” Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said Friday. “We will respond to this letter in due course.”
Amazon’s labor practices have come under increasing scrutiny as it has become the nation’s second largest private employer, after Walmart. The company employs 1.1 million workers directly in the United States, and many more through contractors.
The letter asked Amazon for documents and communications related to how it handled its workforce during several natural disasters, including fires in California, a heat wave in the Pacific Northwest and the Hurricane Irma in Florida.
“This investigation will inform legislative efforts to address unfair labor practices, strengthen worker protections and address the effects of climate change on worker safety,” he said.