- Amazon workers are pushing back against a phone ban after six employees died when a warehouse collapsed in Illinois.
- The long-running policy had been relaxed during the pandemic, but is being reinstated around the country.
- “After these deaths, there is no way in hell I am relying on Amazon to keep me safe,” a staffer told Bloomberg.
Amazon employees are speaking out about the return of a controversial mobile phone ban after devastating tornadoes ripped through the Midwest on Friday, destroying an Illinois warehouse and killing at least six employees.
Though the e-commerce giant had previously relaxed its strict rules prohibiting phones on the warehouse floor during the pandemic, it has been slowly reintroducing the ban across the country, Bloomberg reported. Amazon initially revoked the protocol to allow for staffers to get in touch with loved ones or health care providers in case of emergency.
However, as the ban returns to Amazon locations, several employees told Bloomberg they are once again questioning the policy and expressing fear for their safety after the collapse of an Edwardsville, Illinois, warehouse left at least six workers dead and an unknown number missing on Friday.
Edwardsville officials reported that a wall the size of a football field and the roof above it collapsed at the warehouse when severe storms hit the region, leaving an unidentified number of Amazon employees trapped among the rubble.
Rescue crews arrived on the scene immediately, where one worker was airlifted to a nearby hospital and 45 staffers were evacuated from the ruins, according to Edwardsville fire chief James Whiteford. Whiteford said he expects the recovery effort to continue for an additional three days.
In Kentucky, which bore the brunt of the tornadoes, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said on Sunday he feared at least 80 people were killed, but the death toll may surpass 100. In addition to Illinois and Kentucky, the storms also tore through parts of Arkansas, Tennessee, and Missouri.
Amazon staffers speaking to Bloomberg expressed concern that banning phones would leave them incapable of quickly calling for help or accessing information about imminent storms or other dangerous conditions that might put them in peril.
“After these deaths, there is no way in hell I am relying on Amazon to keep me safe,” an Amazon worker from a nearby facility in Illinois told Bloomberg. “If they institute the no cell phone policy, I am resigning.”
“After this, everyone is definitely afraid of not being able to keep their phones on them,” another worker told Bloomberg. “Most employees that I’ve talked to don’t keep their phones on them for personal conversation throughout the day, It’s genuinely for situations like this.”
Warehouse Workers for Justice, an organization that works to organize Amazon workers in Illinois, said in a statement that it is calling on state legislators to hold a hearing to ensure all facilities “are places of safety for workers and that no family has to worry whether or not their loved ones will make it home from work after an extreme weather event.”
“While natural disasters are not controllable, Amazon’s preparedness and safety protocols are,” Warehouse Workers for Justice said in the statement.
Amazon did not immediately respond to Insider’s request to comment on the phone ban and if it has plans to readjust the policy. In a statement yesterday, a representative for Amazon said the company was “deeply saddened by the news” of the Illinois warehouse.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their loved ones, and everyone impacted by the storm,” the Amazon representative said. “We also want to thank all the first responders for their ongoing efforts on scene.”
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos wrote on Twitter on Saturday night that he was “heartbroken over the loss,” a statement that came following criticism that the executive had been late to comment on the tragedy. Earlier in the day, Bezos shared a photo to Instagram with the Blue Origin space crew, the next team to board the New Shepard rocket.
“All of Edwardsville should know that the Amazon team is committed to supporting them and will be by their side through this crisis,” Bezos wrote on Twitter. “We extend our fullest gratitude to all the incredible first responders who have worked so tirelessly at the site.”