Illinois: Family of Slain Edwardsville Worker Files Lawsuit Against Amazon

By Vincent Cross

The family of Amazon delivery driver Austin McEwen filed a wrongful death lawsuit this Monday against Amazon, as well as the two companies involved in the construction of the Edwardsville Amazon warehouse where McEwen died during a tornado that hit the facility on December 10. The lawsuit states that Amazon failed to properly warn employees of the tornado or provide safe shelter and “carelessly required individuals … to continue working up until the moments before the tornado struck.”

Five other workers at the facility also died during the tornado because of Amazon’s indifference towards workers’ lives, while 45 other workers at the plant had to be rescued by emergency crews from the collapsed wreckage. The lawsuit describes how the building was not outfitted with a basement tornado shelter, and that the company did not evacuate workers or have a proper safety plan in place for such tornado-related disasters.

Edwardsville is located in the southern half of Illinois, which is sometimes included in the region of the United States informally known as “Tornado Alley” due to its high frequency of tornadoes relative to other parts of the country.

Ruling class politicians have rushed to Amazon’s defense following the death of the six workers, with Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker claiming in a statement that it is normal for buildings in the area not to have basement tornado shelters because of “flood plain issues.”

Despite the extreme weather prediction for the area from the National Weather Service the day prior due to an incoming storm, Amazon managers actively prevented workers at the Edwardsville plant from evacuating the facility before the tornado hit. According to the girlfriend of Larry Virden, one of the other five slain workers, his last text message to her read “Amazon won’t let us leave.”

A lawyer for the McEwen family told local monopoly news outlet ABC KVUE: “Certainly, this entire facility could have been evacuated when it was believed a tornado was en route. It appears that holiday profits took precedence over safety.”

The workers’ deaths in Edwardsville occurred under similar circumstances to those in the town of Mayfield, Kentucky, where eight workers died in the collapse of the Mayfield Candle Factory after management would not let them evacuate to safety and be with their families. Both companies’ crimes against workers have been denounced in graffiti which was documented in Austin in recent weeks, with slogans reading “Workers’ deaths on Amazon’s hands, Fight for Edwardsville!” and “Unite workers to fight capitalist crime! People’s justice for Edwardsville and Mayfield!”

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