She was asked to take shelter when she was surrounded by locked buildings and told to not return to base.
"Keep delivering," was the reported message from one of Amazon's supervisors to an employee as the tornado closed in on her. The employee had been hearing the tornado sirens and was scared for her life. She was aware that her life was on the line. "The worst of the storm is going to be right on top of me," she told her supervisor to let them know of the gravity of the situation, according to text messages shared by the employee with Bloomberg News. The Amazon supervisor warned her that she would be fired if she didn't continue working. They dismissed the sirens as just 'warnings'. What actually followed was described by Kentucky governor Andy Beashar as one of the deadliest tornadoes. At least 77 people have been officially killed by the tornado that devastated six states, including six Amazon workers at the company's warehouse in Illinois.
A panicking Amazon delivery driver was ordered to keep working through tornado warnings or she'd lose her job, text messages show, highlighting a lack of training in the online retailer's disjointed delivery network where it's not clear who is the boss.https://t.co/wNXwmCy2N7 pic.twitter.com/iYycajVpsY— I don't have 10,000 followers (@spencersoper) December 17, 2021
The exchange between Amazon worker and supervisors are raising questions on the lack of safety measures taken by the company to protect its employees during extreme events. This comes after a few employees who survived the tornado's destruction of the company warehouse, revealed that the company had threatened to fire them if they left their posts at the factory. The exchange between the driver and Amazon supervisor is highlighting the lack of concern for a human life. After the supervisor told her to keep delivering, the supervisor continued, “We can’t just call people back for a warning unless Amazon tells us to.”
The driver said she wanted to return to base as the tornado was heading her way and the tornado sirens were going off. Her boss told her to stay put and take shelter. The situation was so dire that she replied that she was surrounded by locked buildings with nowhere to shelter. "That’s wanting to turn this van into a casket," she responded. But her boss warned her that her job was on the line and said she would be fired if she returned without completing her deliveries. “If you decided to come back, that choice is yours. If you decide to return with your packages, it will be viewed as you refusing your route, which will ultimately end with you not having a job come tomorrow morning," her boss reportedly wrote.
“Amazon won’t let us leave.”— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) December 15, 2021
Two of my constituents were killed alongside Larry Virden when Amazon failed to keep them safe during a tornado.
How can a company that’s worth $1.7 trillion be unable to protect its workers during a storm? We are demanding answers. https://t.co/ST5QQazlaz
Amazon blamed the person corresponding with the driver for 'ignoring safety practice'. “This was a developing situation across a broad geographic area, and unfortunately the delivery service partner’s dispatcher didn’t follow the standard safety practice,” said Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement. “This dispatcher should have immediately directed the driver to seek shelter when the driver reported hearing tornado sirens. We’re glad the driver is safe and we’re using the learnings from this incident to improve our policies and guidance for delivery service partners and drivers." The spokesperson said the driver should never have been threatened with losing their job.
Another Amazon worker also lost his life after he was told he couldn't leave the warehouse, revealed his girlfriend, sharing texts reportedly confirming the same. As we reported, Cherie Jones was waiting for her boyfriend to come home when she got a final text from him. "Amazon won't let me leave," read the text. Minutes later, the tornado hit the Amazon facility in Illinois, killing many including Larry Virden, Cherie Jones' boyfriend, who was also a father of four. Jones received the final text from Virden at 8.23 p.m. and at 8.30 p.m., the tornado struck the warehouse. "I got text messages from him. He always tells me when he is filling up the Amazon truck when he is getting ready to go back," said Jones, reported Yahoo News. "I was like ‘OK, I love you.’ He’s like, ‘well Amazon won’t let me leave until after the storm blows over.'"
The roof came down on the facility, killing at least six workers. He had been working for five months at the facility. Virden leaves behind four children. “My oldest boy, he thinks that daddy is going to come home, but now we have to tell him that daddy’s not coming home," said Jones, while their daughter sensed something was up the moment she realized he wasn't back home. "She started bawling because she knew something was wrong,” said Jones.
This is a developing story, and we’ll update as we learn more. Information about the tornado is swiftly changing, and Upworthy is committed to providing the most recent and verified updates in our articles and reportage. However, considering the frequency of developments, some of the information/data in this article may have changed since the time of publication.