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No comment from Amazon on Tulsa tornado readiness

The e-mail address from Amazon's press center website
The e-mail address from Amazon's press center website

Updated 12/23 at 6:30 a.m.

Amazon is under scrutiny for a variety of issues now to include disaster preparedness.

Six workers died in a Dec. 10 tornado that hit an Edwardsville, Illinois Amazon warehouse. All six sheltered in bathrooms rather than the “designated assembly area” an Amazon spokesperson said was suggested.

Five were contracted delivery employees. Some arrived at the facility to shelter just before the storm hit despite the National Weather Service forecasting strong tornadoes that day.

Eric Frumin of the Strategic Organizing Center, a coalition of labor unions, said Amazon has been treating its contracted employees poorly for a long time.

“And yet those delivery contractors clearly are under Amazon’s thumb. One has to ask the question if the delivery contractors felt compelled to push their workers to keep working as the tornado risk escalated, why was that? Why did the delivery contractors who are under Amazon’s thumb feel that way?”

A group of lawmakers say the reason is clear: money. Sen. Bernie Sanders and others sent a letter to Amazon on Monday seeking more information on what they say are the company’s “anti-worker policies that prioritize profits over worker safety.”

With Amazon expanding and hiring in tornado prone Tulsa, Public Radio Tulsa made efforts to understand how Amazon is getting ready locally for the type of extreme weather forecasters say will become more frequent.

Amazon’s virtual press page offers an e-mail address: amazon-pr@amazon.com. Inquiries to that address went unanswered.

After calling Amazon’s corporate headquarters, Public Radio Tulsa was told to e-mail the same address.

A reporter visited the Amazon campus at 3511 Mingo Road where a representative from the company said workers were not allowed to talk to reporters. The employee said questions should be sent to amazon-pr@amazon.com.

A representative from Amazon contacted Public Radio Tulsa on Wednesday to say the company won’t comment on how it might help Tulsa employees shelter from tornadoes.

This article was updated to add Amazon’s response.

Before joining Public Radio Tulsa, Elizabeth Caldwell was a freelance reporter and a teacher. She holds a master's from Hollins University. Her audio work has appeared at KCRW, CBC's The World This Weekend, and The Missouri Review. She is a south Florida native.