Last month, two Amazon workers reportedly died within hours of each other in the Bessemer, Alabama facility. Now, two of their co-workers are speaking out through workers’ rights organization More Perfect Union, alleging the e-commerce company is trying to cover up the deaths.
In a statement to ESSENCE, Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel says “these claims are false,” but reps for More Perfect Union stand by the claims.
In an almost one million-viewed video interview shared on Twitter, Amazon workers Isaiah Thomas and Perry Connelly explained what allegedly transpired between November 28 and 29 and thereafter.
According to Thomas, one of the employees, from his department, but on a different shift, had complained of not feeling well. The employee inquired with both HR and management as to his options, but was left with no choice as he didn’t have enough unpaid time. Thomas explains that employees are “terrified” of being dismissed if they take more time off than they are allotted.
“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.”
That employee suffered a stroke on the site in a trailer shortly after the request. The employee’s body was discovered almost 20 minutes after he hadn’t been seen for a while.
Connelly explained to More Perfect Union that the employee died alone. “He was not supposed to be in a trailer by himself. There is always supposed to be someone [else] in the trailer or at the end of the trailer to keep an eye on you, just in case something falls… we all know that that was wrong.”
Hours apart, a second employee died at a hospital after being transported away from the facility in an ambulance.
According to both, managers at Amazon instructed workers to not talk about the deaths and continue working.
“There is no shut down. There is no moment of silence. There is no time to sit and have a prayer,” Connelly says. “A couple of people that worked directly with him were badly shaken up and wanted to go home and were not allowed to go home.”
Both Thomas and Connelly called the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to inquire about the conditions at the warehouse. According to Connelly, upon discussion, OSHA shared they were only notified of the worker’s death on the site, not the worker’s death that occurred at the hospital.
A total of six employees have died at the same facility in 2021 alone.
Earlier this year, Bessemer Amazon employees tried to unionize in response to dangerous working conditions and unfair scheduling. The union attempt was defeated by a 1798 to 738 vote.
However, Mashable reported, Amazon illegally interfered with the election and was ordered to redo the vote in 2022 by the National Labor Relations Board.
Thomas continued, “Bessemer is a low-income and mainly Black city. It feels like they put that [Amazon] there, because they can take advantage of desperate people.”
More Perfect Union noted in the video that Amazon did not respond to its requests for comment.