Amazon sued over tornado-hit warehouse deaths
Amazon is being sued by the family of a delivery driver who was killed last month when one of its Illinois warehouses was destroyed by a tornado, with the family accusing the company of placing profits over people.
26-year-old Austin McEwan – along with five others – died after a tornado hit the Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois on December 10, 2021. The workers were allegedly prohibited from leaving the warehouse before disaster struck and the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is currently investigating the incident.
McEwan’s family filed a lawsuit against Amazon on Monday, alleging that the company failed to sufficiently warn employees or provide a safe place for them to take cover.
“Sadly, it appears that Amazon placed profits first during this holiday season instead of the safety of our son and the other five,” said Austin’s mother Alice McEwen during a press conference.
The lawsuit accuses Amazon of having “carelessly required individuals” to “continue working up until the moments before the tornado struck,” before directing employees to take cover in a room which did not provide sufficient protection. Attorney Jack Casciato, who is representing the McEwans, accused Amazon of recklessly making employees work “up to the point of no return.”
Amazon, however, has accused the McEwans of misunderstanding “key facts,” arguing that “severe weather watches are common in this part of the country and, while precautions are taken, are not cause for most businesses to close down.”
“We believe our team did the right thing as soon as a warning was issued,” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said.
Amazon received a wave of criticism following the disaster, including from former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.
“Amazon knew it was dangerous to force workers to show up on Friday, and yet the company did it anyway – while preventing employees from having access to potentially life-saving weather alerts on their phones,” tweeted Reich, who added, “Corporate greed is deadly.”