Amazon.com Inc. should add a storm shelter to the warehouse that partially collapsed after being struck by a tornado last year, some lawmakers say. Six people were killed when two walls and a section of roof collapsed.
In a Dec. 15 letter to Amazon, CEO Andy Jassy, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), said a plan to rebuild Amazon’s Edwardsville, Ill., fulfillment center to “pre-loss conditions” is not sufficient to prevent future harm to workers at the warehouse.
“It is clear that Amazon’s effort to protect workers at the Edwardsville facility were sorely lacking,” the lawmakers wrote, noting that some of the people at the warehouse were unaware of the designated shelter-in-place location. The workers who were killed had taken cover in the wrong bathroom.
Amazon confirms the building is being restored to its pre-tornado condition, but says it is only a tenant of the building. The landlord is responsible for the project.
The property is owned by Realty Income Illinois Properties 4 LLC, records show. The owner is a subsidiary of San Diego-based Realty Income Corp. As of the end of 2021, Realty Income had 16 leases with Amazon, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings. Realty Income did not immediately respond to inquiries.
Amazon says it complies with building codes and regulations. Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, said in a statement that the company has “strengthened our emergency response plans and tailored them to meet the specific needs of individual sites, increased the frequency of emergency drills for employees and partners, and reevaluated the severe weather assembly area locations in many of our facilities to ensure they meet not only OSHA requirements but also FEMA guidance, which is the most stringent and comprehensive.”
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration completed its investigation into the collapse earlier this year, concluding that Amazon could improve its severe weather safety procedures. However, officials declined to issue any citations.
Warren, Bush and Ocasio-Cortez wrote that the “gaps in federal rules” lacking a requirement to install storm shelters “should not absolve Amazon of its responsibility to its workers.”
Amazon is also facing several lawsuits on behalf of workers who were killed or injured in the Dec. 10, 2021 partial collapse. Eight suits have been consolidated in Madison County, Ill., circuit court, records show.