Amazon Workers Blast Facility’s Phone Ban Following Deadly Tornado

by Josh Lanier
(Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

Amazon employees say they’re worried about their safety after one of the company’s warehouses collapsed Friday during a tornado. Six people died when the roof caved in at a facility in Edwardsville, Illinois. They include a Navy veteran and a mother of a 1-year-old.

Several Amazon employees told Bloomberg that they worry the company will reinstitute its controversial cellphone ban. The rule required employees to lock up their cellphones when they arrived at work. Amazon lifted that ban in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic, but the company has hinted at reinstating it, employees said.

“After these deaths, there is no way in hell I am relying on Amazon to keep me safe,” said someone who works at the Illinois facility.  “If they institute the no cell phone policy, I am resigning.”

The Amazon workers interviewed said the storms this weekend show that getting weather updates on your smartphone is crucial. They also want to be able to reach emergency services and their loved ones during a crisis.

“After this, everyone is definitely afraid of not being able to keep their phones on them,” one of the workers said. “Most employees that I’ve talked to don’t keep their phones on them for personal conversation throughout the day. It’s genuinely for situations like this.”

Amazon wouldn’t comment on its plans for the cellphone ban with Bloomberg. The company said it is focused “on assisting the brave first responders on the scene and supporting our affected employees and partners in the area.”

Family Members of Dead Workers Slam Amazon

The sister of Clayton Cope blames Amazon’s “negligence” for her brother’s death during Friday’s storms. She said the 29-year-old Navy veteran died helping his co-workers get to safety. But that could have been avoided had the company reacted to the warnings earlier.

“I’d want people to know that he died saving the lives of people in that building because of Amazon’s negligence to take the tornado sirens seriously and choosing the productivity of their company over their employees,” Rachel Cope told “My brother is a hero.”

Clayton Cope’s mom told CNN that she spoke to him shortly before the tornado hit the building. He told her he’d warned his coworkers about getting to safety.

Other Amazon workers identified as dead by the local coroner were Deandre ‘Shawn’ Morrow, 28, of St. Louis, Missouri; Kevin D. Dickey, 62, of Carlyle, Illinois; Etheria S. Hebb, 34, of St. Louis, Missouri; and Larry E. Virden, 46, of Collinsville, Illinois.     

Amazon said all employees were told to go to designated shelter areas after the company learned of the tornado warning.

But workers said it all happened so quickly that they took shelter wherever they could find.

“I had a coworker that was sending me pictures when they were taking shelter in the bathroom, basically anywhere they could hide,” said Alexander Bird, who works at a warehouse across the street. “People had to think on their feet quick.”