The fight for justice and accountability continues for six Amazon employees who were killed when a warehouse roof collapsed during a tornado in December.
Federal officials are investigating possible health and safety violations at the facility in Edwardsville, Illinois, a suburb of St. Louis. Illinois lawmakers are considering raising statewide standards for warehouse construction to prevent future tragedies. And family members of one of the employees, Austin McEwen, recently filed a wrongful death suit against the giant retailer.
“My daughter was not expendable,” said Jeffrey Hebb at a January rally in front of the Edwardsville facility. Hebb’s daughter, 34-year-old Etheria Hebb, died in the warehouse collapse, leaving behind a one-year-old daughter.
“Amazon was supposed to keep them safe,” Hebb said. “They didn’t do that. How does a company worth over $1 trillion let this happen?”
Despite multiple severe tornado watch alerts in the surrounding area, Amazon workers were advised not to leave the facility the night of the storm. With Amazon forbidding personal cell phone use at work, workers were also cut off from all communication with loved ones. While the e-commerce giant claims the building was up to code and that workers followed safety procedures to shelter during the storm, that offers little solace to the workers and their loved ones who believe this tragedy could have been prevented.
“This was negligence from the richest company in the world, owned by the richest man in the world,” said Cheryl Sommer, a local faith leader and mother of an Amazon warehouse worker. “I understand that these safety procedures take time and money and would have impacted the company’s bottom line and that profits are good, but how much profit is worth it when it comes to the dignity and safety of workers who contribute to that profit? How many homes for one person are enough? How many yachts? How many trips into space?”