Amazon permanently allows workers to carry phones following warehouse collapse

Associates had demanded access to their devices for emergencies.

EASTVALE, CA - AUGUST 31: A worker sorts out packages in the outbound dock at Amazon fulfillment center in Eastvale on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda/MediaNews Group/The Press-Enterprise via Getty Images) (MediaNews Group/The Riverside Press-Enterprise via Getty Images via Getty Images)

Amazon will permanently allow warehouse employees to keep their cellphones with them at work after temporarily permitting them during the pandemic, Vice has reported. "We recognize the desire for employees to keep their mobile phones with them inside facilities, and the last two years have demonstrated that we can safely do so," an internal message seen by Motherboard stated. "Therefore, we are making the temporary phone policy permanent worldwide, in all of our operations facilities."

Amazon planned to reinstate the mobile device ban following the COVID-19 pandemic. However, when its Edwardsville, Illinois warehouse collapsed in a tornado, killing six people, angry associates demanded permanent cellphone access for safety reasons. They delivered a petition to six Amazon warehouses in December, saying "taking our phones away isn't about safety, it's about controlling us." Workers who voted to unionize at Amazon's Staten Island facility also made cell phone access a key demand.

Amazon subsequently backtracked on the idea "until further notice," and has now permanently removed the ban. Meanwhile, 1,500 workers at another Staten Island warehouse are voting on whether or not to unionize, with the vote counting set to start on May 2nd. Amazon avoided penalties in the warehouse collapse, but the US safety watchdog OSHA asked the company to review its procedures after discovering issues with its Emergency Action Plan (EAP).