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Amazon’s Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

In Illinois, echoes of the 1911 industrial disaster caused by corporate greed
Amazon’s Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

This is unspeakable:

You have heard of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, have you not? It was the 1911 disaster at a Manhattan garment factory that killed over 120 people — most of them women — when fire broke out at a factory in which the exit doors had been locked to keep workers from taking too many breaks, and stealing things.

From NBC News:

“We have never had any tornado drills, nor had we sheltered in place for any of the warnings we’ve had in the past,” said a woman who has worked for the past two years at STL8, another Amazon facility about 66 miles west of Edwardsville, and is not authorized to speak publicly. She added that during two previous tornado warnings during her overnight shift, she was expected to continue working even when the company sounded alarms.

Workers across Amazon facilities also pushed back against a policy that Amazon is bringing back barring phones at work. For years, Amazon has banned workers from carrying their phones in warehouse facilities. The company relaxed the policy during the coronavirus pandemic and then started to reinstate it at warehouses across the country, Bloomberg reported.

Asked about Bloomberg’s reporting and an understanding among workers that the ban would be reinstated Jan. 1, Alisa Carroll, a company spokeswoman, declined to answer directly.

“Employees and drivers are allowed to have their cell phones with them,” she said by email.

A second worker, who also was not authorized to speak publicly and who works at STL4, the building diagonally across the street from the damaged facility, said in a written message that one of her closest co-workers was grateful that she had a phone with her. If she had not had her phone, she would not have known to run to shelter.

“We live in the midwest. Tornado watches and warnings happen ALL THE TIME. Most days we barely bat an eye at storm watches, and we are accustomed to taking shelter in a moment’s notice at warnings,” she wrote. “But you can’t take shelter if you don’t get the warning.”

At this stage, the Kentucky tornado catastrophe might be Amazon’s Triangle Shirtwaist event (note well: the Amazon facility was in Illinois, but most of the damage caused by this storm was in Kentucky, which is why I’m calling it the Kentucky catastrophe). If those poor souls were indeed forced to stay in the factory, and were not allowed access to their phones, aside from the casualty numbers, what is the difference?

Amazon says the six workers killed did not shelter in the designated safe place. It is possible that Amazon has a good defense for its conduct here. But I would like to see Congressional hearings into this, and into Amazon’s business practices. Enough is enough!

UPDATE: The candle factory was worse, according to reports. I focused on Amazon in this blog post because they have had labor complaints lodged against them for years.



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