Members of the U.S. House Oversight Committee are alleging that Amazon is “obstructing” the panel’s investigation into a deadly warehouse collapse at an Edwardsville facility.
In a letter made public Wednesday, June 1, addressed to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, the Oversight Committee’s chairwoman, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Cori Bush, D-Mo., said the company has “failed to produce” key documents requested by the Committee since its investigation opened in April.
The probe is looking into Amazon’s labor practices and is specifically zeroing in on its handling of the warehouse collapse that killed six people on Dec. 10 of last year. Lawmakers reportedly gave Amazon until April 14 to respond to its inquiry and produce the requested documents, but Amazon has allegedly refused to do so.
The committee is seeking communications between Amazon managers and employees at the Edwardsville facility, among other things.
Jack Casciato, partner at Clifford Law Offices in Chicago, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the family of a delivery driver killed in that warehouse collapse, reacted to this reported failure to cooperate on the part of the company.
“What is in those documents that Amazon refuses to turn over? Amazon should be fully transparent in what occurred so that that families who were injured or killed have closure in this horrific event. It also is important so that this doesn’t occur again when bad weather strikes,” Casciato said.
Amazon has about 110 fulfillment centers throughout the United States.
Media reports state that Amazon must respond to Congress by June 8 or alternative measures will be considered to obtain full compliance that might include lawmakers issuing a subpoena or calling for subjects to testify at a hearing.
OSHA was on the scene following the deadly collapse, and in a letter to Amazon in April, the OSHA Area Director pointed out three “workplace conditions [that] have been identified as risk factors.” They included a locked-up megaphone, the possible lack of shelter-in place drills for employees, and the lack of a plan that “did not specifically identify the location of the designated shelter area for the facility.”
The letter went on to recommend three “necessary steps” that Amazon should voluntarily take “to eliminate or materially reduce your employees’ exposure to the risk factors described above.” Those steps included clearly identified audible warnings, training and drills for all who work throughout the facility including vendors, and site-specific information on severe weather emergency plans including “any applicable exit route, exit door, shelter-in-place, or any other emergency plan guidance, should be identified within the written emergency plan.”
The victims were from top left, clockwise: Austin J. McEwen, 26, of Edwardsville; Deandre S. Morrow, 28, of St. Louis; Etheria S. Hebb, 34, of St. Louis; Clayton Lynn Cope, 29, of Alton; Larry E. Virden, 46, of Collinsville; and Kevin D. Dickey, 62, of Carlyle;