After hearing tornado sirens, an Amazon delivery driver in Illinois was told to keep delivering packages, with the dispatcher explaining that the sirens were “just a warning.” The driver was told that returning to the warehouse would be viewed as a route refusal, “which [would] ultimately end with you not having a job come tomorrow morning,” according to a Bloomberg report that includes screenshots of the conversation.
The dispatcher’s response is chilling: “If you decide to return, that is your choice.” But I can assure you that it will not be considered for your protection. The safest course of action is to remain in your current location.” The dispatcher claimed that drivers could only be recalled if Amazon requested it and that if she returned, she would lose her job. According to Bloomberg, the tornado hit along a highway, tossing automobiles into the air, while the driver involved in the text exchange is said to be safe.
When the dispatcher heard the sirens, Amazon told Bloomberg that the dispatcher “should have immediately directed the driver to seek shelter” and that “under no circumstances should the dispatcher have threatened the driver’s employment.” The incident is being investigated, according to the company.
The Amazon factory wasn’t safe either: during the storm, a warehouse collapsed, killing six workers. According to Bloomberg, the warehouse did not run exercises to ensure that employees were prepared in the event of an emergency.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the United States has launched an investigation into the warehouse incident, and experts say Amazon’s lack of action can be traced back to the company’s insatiable desire to please customers at all costs, as well as a lack of policy that would legally obligate the company to send its workers home. An Amazon shareholder included the incident in a shareholder resolution seeking an independent audit of the company’s working conditions.
Amazon drivers (who are frequently not direct employees of Amazon but rather work for companies contracted by the online retailer) have a history of being put in perilous situations to meet quotas. Drivers were told to turn off the (often buggy) app used to ensure delivery workers were driving safely earlier this year, according to reports.