Two Amazon workers denied sick leave die within hours of each other, co-workers claim

The workers claim they were told not to talk about the incident and to get back to work

Graig Graziosi
Wednesday 29 December 2021 23:11 GMT

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Two Amazon workers reportedly died within hours of each other on 28 and 29 November, with one dying at the facility and another after they were taken away by an ambulance.

The workers were reportedly on duty at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. According to two workers who spoke out after the incident, the pair were told to carry on working despite feeling unwell.

Workers who spoke with the worker right organisation More Perfect Union claimed that six people have died at the facility in 2021 and have accused Amazon of trying to cover up the incidents.

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said the claims were lies.

“These claims are just false and it’s really disappointing that anyone would spread misinformation about something like this to try and advance their own agenda,” she said in a statement to The Independent.

More Perfect Union shared a video interview with Amazon day-shift worker Isaiah Thomas, who claimed that one of the individuals who “died on the job” was denied sick leave before suffering a fatal stroke.

Mr Thomas said the man went to HR and said ‘I'm not feeling so well, can I please go home?’ but noted that many workers fear taking time off beyond their allotted hours for fear of being terminated.

“He didn’t have enough [unpaid time off] to go home … And so, they’re effectively telling him, you either go home and lose your job, or you just stay here and keep working through the pain. And that’s what he did,” Mr Thomas said in the interview.

Another worker who participated in an interview told More Perfect Union that the worker suffered a stroke and died inside a trailer. Perry Connelly, the employee who spoke with the organisation, said the man's body was not found for nearly 20 minutes.

Both workers claimed that Amazon managers told the rest of the workers to continue working and not to speak about what happened. Mr Connelly said some of the workers who interacted regularly with the individual who died were upset by the death and wanted to go home, but were not allowed.

“There’s no shutdown, there’s no moment of silence, there’s no time to sit and have a prayer” Mr Connelly said. “You’re a body. Once that body’s used up, they’ll just bring somebody else in and do the work.”

Workers at the warehouse attempted to unionise in April, but their efforts were ultimately defeated. Workers voted 1798 against a union against the 738 who voted for one.

The National Labour Relations Board determined that Amazon illegally interfered in the unionisation attempt by intimidating workers. A revote was ordered for 29 November, the same day that one of the individuals reportedly died at the Bessemer plant.

Workers are set to vote again for a union at the plant in 2022.

Amazon has been criticised in the past for putting workers in dangerous situation; six workers recently died after a warehouse collapsed during a tornado in Illinois. The company's warehouses have a nearly 80 per cent higher rate of serious injuries than other companies that operate warehouses, according to the Strategic Organising Centre.

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