There have been accusations that employees of a candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky, and an Amazon Warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois were threatened with termination if they left work during a tornado. Other employees have disputed the accusations.
But in Mayfield, a class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the employees against Mayfield Consumer Products, where they make those candles.
One thing is clear. These companies put profits over their employees. At least eight people died in the candle factory and six died in the Amazon warehouse.
There were reports that Amazon warehouse supervisors threatened employees with termination and cell phones were not allowed on the floor. Those reports remain unfounded but some employees did have their phones on them and called their families during the tornado. One driver detailed that as he was arriving at the factory minutes before the tornado, he was directed to seek shelter in the building.
This isn’t the first time a tornado killed Amazon workers. Two employees died in a Maryland Amazon warehouse in 2018 from a tornado.
Amazon says their buildings are up to code, but since Amazon doesn’t own these warehouses, is it their responsibility, or does that belong to who they rent them from? I’d say both. There are no federal laws that warehouses must have tornado shelters, but maybe there should be in places like Kentucky and Illinois. Amazon did have a “shelter” location which was a bunch of bathrooms without windows. Maybe Amazon should have tried harder to provide safe areas after that 2018 Maryland tornado killed two of their workers.
In Illinois, one driver said he had an Amazon-provided phone on him at the time a warning came through on it…and the warning was in Spanish. The driver does not speak Spanish.
I don’t believe Amazon threatened their employees with termination if they left. But I do believe they don’t care all that much about their safety. The corporation has been accused throughout the pandemic of unsafe work environments and health protocols.
More than 100 people were working at the candle factory when the tornado hit, and according to Representative Jame Comer, production had been going 24/7 to meet Christmastime candle demands.
Candle factory worker Elijah Johnson said, “I’ve been making statements and every statement I’ve been making they denied it, and that’s just not right. They’re neglecting everyone that’s in there.”
Johnson is one of the workers claiming a supervisor threatened to fire him if he left.
“I said, ‘Man, you’re going to refuse to let us leave, even if the weather is this bad and the tornado’s not here yet?’ He was like, ‘If you want to decide to leave, if you want to leave, you can leave, but you’re going to be terminated. You’re going to be fired.'”
This wasn’t minutes before the tornado when these workers wanted to leave. They had three hours between warnings.
A company spokesperson said some people did leave that night and workers are free to come and go as they want. But McKayla Emery told CNN that she heard people ask a supervisor whether they could leave, and the supervisor “told them word for word: ‘If you sign out, you more than likely will get fired.'”
Factory employee Haley Conder told The Associated Press a supervisor threatened her with written disciplinary action if she went home early because storms were approaching.
Conder questions why the company did not encourage workers to go home, or at least give them a better understanding of the danger between a first tornado siren around 6 p.m. Friday and another one around 9 p.m., shortly before the tornado hit. See? Three hours.
Another worker said he never heard any of that, but he was also under 15 feet of rubble after the tornado tore the factory apart.
The lawsuit claims the factory had “up to three and half hours before the tornado hit its place of business to allow its employees to leave its worksite as safety precautions.” The factory showed “flagrant indifference to the rights” of the workers by refusing to do so. Don’t most corporations show “flagrant indifference” to the rights of workers?
The lawsuit also alleges serious violations of worker safety laws and a massive cover-up scheme to protect the interest of the candle factory. One of the attorneys representing the survivors called the factory “a modern-day sweatshop.” I’m sure we’re going to learn a lot more details as this lawsuit moves forward.
Even if the candle factory did not threaten employees or allow them to leave, these plaintiffs have a case. The factory did have three hours between tornado warnings. And keep in mind, these were tornado warnings in December when tornadoes typically don’t happen. That seems like something that should be taken seriously.
Of course, it’s not being taken seriously by Republicans who tell us climate change is not a thing despite melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels, and fucking tornadoes in December. In fact, my windows in Virginia are open right now. It’s warm.
Some of the workers at the Amazon warehouse were not employees but contractors, which means they can’t unionize. It’s like they’re professional wrestlers. In Kentucky, it’s a right-to-work state which really means it’s a right-to-fire state. A right-to-work state basically means employers can fire employees without any reason. In fact, it’s safer to fire someone without reason than it is to provide an explanation. The explanation might get the employer in legal trouble where firing without any explanation is that employer’s “right,” so long as he’s in the right state.
What is desperately needed for the safety of workers are unions. Unions care about worker safety while corporations do not. It’s why Republicans hate unions. We need unions to prevent corporations from placing profits before safety…before lives. Corporate America sees blue-collar workers as ants. They’re easily replaced.
If you’re in a union, you can’t be fired for fleeing from a tornado. Corporate America says, “Yes, you can. And what are you whining about anyway? Didn’t you see the bathroom we provided for you to hide in?”
Corporate America says, “Don’t forget to flush between hiding from the tornado and returning to the assembly line.”
You’re just a fucking ant to be stepped on and replaced later.
And if a tornado sweeps you from a candle factory or an Amazon warehouse and you land in Oz, stay there. The wicked witch is way more compassionate than corporate America.
Music note: I listened to Third Eye Blind’s first album while drawing this. I timed it perfectly as I turned on the music when I started crosshatching and started on the first song, “Losing a Whole Year” and finished coloring just as when the last song, “God of Wine,” was finishing. To be honest, I did skip “Jumper,” and everything between “Burning Man” and “London.” Ugh. Most of the album is fucking amazeballs.
Signed prints: The signed prints are just $40.00 each. Every cartoon on this site is available. You can pay through PayPal. If you don’t like PayPal, you can snail mail it to Clay Jones, P.O. Box 3721, Fredericksburg, VA 22402. I can mail the prints directly to you or if you’re purchasing as a gift, directly to the person you’re gifting.
Notes on my book, Tales From The Trumpster Fire: There are 18 copies of my book in stock, which go for $45.00 each, signed. Also, I have copies of my first book from 1997, Knee-Deep in Mississippi available for $20.00.
Tip Jar: if you want to support the cartoonist, please send a donation through PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also snail it to P.O. Box 3721, Fredericksburg, VA 22402.
Watch me draw: