Eight workers were killed at a scented candle factory in Kentucky, and another six at an Amazon warehouse in Illinois, by the multistate tornado system over the weekend. The deaths highlight workers’ vulnerability to extreme weather in the face of corporate pressure to extract maximum profit from their labor. Workers at the Mayfield Consumer Products factory in Mayfield, Ky., which makes candles for Bath & Body Works, were told, “‘If you leave, you’re more than likely to be fired.’” McKayla Emery told NBC from her hospital bed. “I heard that with my own ears.”
Elijah Johnson told NBC he “asked to leave and they told me I’d be fired,” adding managers took a roll call to find out who had left. Three hours after the initial warnings came, the tornado demolished the factory. In Illinois, a tornado killed six Amazon employees in a warehouse, and state officials are investigating safety violations at Amazon facilities. Multiple outlets reported workers said the company’s ban on carrying personal phones made them less safe because the bans prevented them from receiving safety information, and NBC reported Amazon employees said they were forced to keep working during previous nighttime tornado warnings. A disproportionate number of tornado fatalities occur at night. “This never would have happened if they cared about lives over productivity,” the sister of one of the victims commented on social media. Amazon’s head of retail tweeted his “thoughts and prayers.”
Emerging research on climate links
There is increasing evidence linking climate change to the severe weather that gives rise to tornadoes, and emerging research suggests there may be a link between warming and large tornado outbreaks, particularly in the southeast U.S. in the winter months. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday that 74 people were confirmed dead in the state and President Biden will visit the area on Wednesday. Thousands are also without electricity, heat, and running water.
(General: Washington Post $, CBS, MSNBC, ABC, Axios, E&E News, NBC; Contributing factors: Washington Post $; Power outages: AP, Politico Pro $; Candle factory: NBC, NBC, The Guardian, Bloomberg $; Candle factory death toll: WPSD-6; Amazon deaths: Business Insider, BBC, NBC, New York Times $; Safety investigation: Axios, New York Times $, CNBC, CNN, New York Times $; Climate connection: AP, Gizmodo, Axios, MSNBC, CBS, Washington Post $, NBC, Democracy Now, MSNBC, NPR; Biden: Politico, Axios, The Hill; Photos: Axios; Climate Signals background: Tornado risk increase)