‘I don’t feel safe’: Union alleges unsafe conditions at Alabama Amazon facility

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Workers at an Alabama Amazon facility were reportedly told to continue working on Friday as potentially vaporized oil spilled over a series of floors.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which seeks to represent workers at the settlement, publicized the allegations about the Bessemer facility in a statement released Saturday afternoon.

Amazon challenged the union’s version of events on Saturday night.

According to the organization, a compressor at the facility malfunctioned on Friday afternoon, spraying what workers at the time thought was smoke from an air vent on the third floor of the warehouse. It is now thought to be vaporized oil.

The group in its statement said that around 1:30 p.m., workers on the third floor of the warehouse were ordered to exit, evacuate and take voluntary unpaid leave. According to the group, workers on other floors were not told to stop work and evacuate, or told about the spread of the substance through the air vents.

The workers on the first floor finally went to see what was happening around 4:30 p.m. According to the organization, no alarms, notifications, text messages or the like were sent to the workers at any time during the day.

Around 5:45 p.m., workers began leaving the facility by word of mouth. Some fire and police department vehicles were at the scene at the time, the statement said.

Night shift workers began to arrive while day shift workers waited for more information, but at 7 p.m. workers were ordered to enter the building and begin their shift of work. According to the release, cloudiness was still in the air inside the facility.

OSHA has been notified of the incident, according to the organization.

Isaiah Thomas, a worker at the Bessemer plant, thought their glasses were smudged at the start of the incident, but then left with their colleague after thinking it was smoke in the building.

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“Everyone was very confused and the lack of information made us feel very unsafe. We didn’t know what was going on and many of us sought safety in our cars and tried to drive away. as much of the building as possible,” Thomas said, according to the statement.

Thomas added that they were shocked that workers were asked to continue working throughout the incident and shocked that no notification or alarm was sent to workers.

“I don’t know what I’ve been breathing for so long, and I don’t know if it’s still in the air at work today either. I don’t feel safe and would like management to treat us like humans and genuinely care about our safety,” Thomas said.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the retailers, wholesalers and department stores union, echoed Thomas’s remarks.

“It is unacceptable for Amazon to keep workers on their jobs when there is a known health and safety issue. Workers’ lives should never be put at risk for profit,” Appelbaum said. “Amazon must be held accountable for this.”

Amazon released a statement late Saturday denying the group’s version of events.

“Sir. Applebaum’s claims are false. Yesterday an air compressor malfunction caused the equipment to emit smoke. As a precaution, we evacuated the facility and called the local fire department who responded and quickly assessed and cleaned up the site,” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said. We are grateful that no one was injured and we appreciate the quick actions of the Bessemer firefighters.

The fire department conducted an air quality test and found no hazardous contaminants. Employees were able to return to the site and complete their shift. Employees were not required to clock in and take VTO (voluntary time off) and all employees were paid for their full shifts.

This incident comes as the deadline for the return of absentee ballots for the establishment’s labor vote approaches. Workers have until March 28 to fill out and return their ballots.

A similar vote last year came out strongly in favor of Amazon against unionization. US Senator Tommy Tuberville questioned the decision to allow a second election on Friday, the same day of the alleged incident.

Amazon has been contacted for comment.

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