Lawmakers seek answers from Amazon in wake of deadly warehouse collapse

Members of the US Senate and House send a letter to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and CEO Andy Jassy after six employees died during a tornado in Illinois.

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Amazon warehouse collapse (Getty)

Six people died after an Amazon Fulfillment Center in Edwardsville, Illinois, was hit by a tornado on Dec. 10.

Tim Vizer/AFP via Getty Images

A group of 23 progressive lawmakers including Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants answers from Amazon about the Dec. 10 warehouse collapse that left six employees dead. They addressed their 12-page letter to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and CEO Andy Jassy.

The workers killed in the Edwardsville, Illinois, warehouse were Austin J. McEwen, DeAndre S. Morrow, Clayton Lynn Cope, Etheria S. Hebb, Larry E. Virden and Kevin D. Dickey.  The structure suffered a direct hit from a tornado.

"We have heard alarming reports about the events that took place in the warehouse moments prior to the tragedy, and these reports fit a larger pattern: Amazon puts worker safety at risk in everyday situations and emergencies alike," the letter reads. "As we work to ensure that tragedies such as this one are not repeated, we seek answers about what happened at your Edwardsville warehouse and whether your policies may have contributed to this tragedy."

Aside from Warren (Massachusetts) and Ocasio-Cortez (New York), the letter was signed by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Edward J. Markey (Massachusetts), Alex Padilla (California), Bernard Sanders (Vermont) and Ron Wyden (Oregon), and Reps. Cori Bush (Missouri). Jesús G. "Chuy" García (Illinois), Mondaire Jones (New York), Barbara Lee (California), Andy Levin (Michigan), Jerry McNerney (California), Ilhan Omar (Minnesota), Donald M. Payne Jr. (New Jersey), Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts), Jan Schakowsky (Illinois), Rashida Tlaib (Michigan), Paul D. Tonko (New York), Bonnie Watson Coleman (New Jersey), James P. McGovern (Massachusetts) and Jamaal Bowman (New York). All are Democrats, except Sanders, who is an independent but caucuses with the Democrats.

"The circumstances that led to six deaths at the Edwardsville warehouse are heartbreaking and another reminder that Amazon's anti-worker and anti-union practices put their workers directly in harm's way,"  Warren said in a statement. "Putting corporate profits above the health and safety of workers is unacceptable. Amazon must answer for its exploitative labor practices – and we cannot let a tragedy like this happen ever again."

The US Occupational Health and Safety Administration has opened an investigation into workplace conditions at the warehouse, according to Business Insider.

In a statement emailed to CNET, Amazon noted that it was reviewing the letter and would respond.

"Right now our focus remains on taking care of our employees and partners, the family members of those killed by the tornado, and the communities affected by this tragedy," Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel wrote.