According to a letter sent to Amazon chief executive Andy Jesse, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform has begun investigating Amazon’s labor practices during severe weather events.
“We are concerned by recent reports that Amazon may endanger the health and safety of its workers, requiring them to operate in hazardous conditions during tornadoes, hurricanes and other extreme weather conditions,” said a letter signed by the committee’s chairman. , New York Representative Caroline B. Maloney, as well as Missouri representative Corey Bush and New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 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 people at the facility were not direct employees of Amazon. They were subcontracted delivery drivers, a complication that hindered response when authorities could not easily determine how many people were on site. The facility did not have a tornado safe room, which was not required by the building code.
At least one subcontracted driver was asked to continue delivering during the storm, according to text messages published by Bloomberg News. Amazon said the subcontractor’s dispatcher did not comply with its safety protocol.
“Our focus is on supporting our employees and partners, families who have lost loved ones, the surrounding community and all those affected by the tornado,” Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantell said in a statement on Friday. “We will respond to this letter in a timely manner.”
Amazon’s labor practices have come under increasing scrutiny as it has become the second largest private employer in the country after Walmart. The company employs 1.1 million workers directly in the United States, in addition to many contractors.
The letter asked Amazon for documents and communications on how it managed its workforce during a number of natural disasters, including a fire in California, a heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, and Hurricane Irma in Florida.
“This investigation will address legal efforts to prevent unfair labor practices, strengthen safety for workers, and address the effects of climate change on workers’ safety,” he said.