Rafael Reynaldo Mota Frias: Amazon worker who died during Prime Day rush remembered as a 'selfless man'
An Amazon employee who lost his life while working at a New Jersey fulfillment center during the Prime Day sales rush has been described as a “great person” by his family. Rafael Reynaldo Mota Frias from the Dominican Republic’s La Romana reportedly had a heart attack on July 13 at Carteret's Amazon warehouse, called EWR9, which took his life.
Following his tragic death, family members paid tribute to him as his niece said, “You will never be forgotten. We will always remember you as the selfless man that you were. Always worrying about people’s health and stability. He was hardworking, funny and affectionate.” Mota Frias’ cousin Marlen Frias also grieved his loss by calling him a family man and “great person” who “always thought about everyone else," as reported by The Daily Beast.
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Like Rafael's colleagues, Marlen too raised doubts about the working conditions within the warehouse. “He was accomplished at his job but it was too demanding,” Marlen added. This comes after it was reported that federal investigators along with the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) were probing Mota Frias’ death.
Numerous workers at the same facility have blamed “the fast-paced environment inside the warehouse, which lacks air conditioning in the main work area” for his death. One unnamed co-worker told The Daily Beast that Mota Frias had asked for fans hours before he collapsed. They stated, “It’s crazy because I was right there. I feel like Amazon as a whole could have done way more about the situation.”
Some claimed that even after the man collapsed and was taken away by Amazon’s on-site first-aid clinic AmCare's workers, others were ordered to continue doing their job. “They are trying to say he had a heart attack, even if that was the case, everybody was saying it was too hot inside to be working,” the anonymous source said. Another asserted, “They honestly need to do much much better. It’s a trillion-dollar company. There is no reason why these facilities should not have fully air-conditioned facilities,” before adding: “The cafeteria area and the offices are all air-conditioned, but where the real work happens, we get fans. When it’s hot outside, you already know it’s going to be hot inside. It’s becoming an unfortunate common thing that should not be happening at all.”
Both the sources also went on to claim that following Mota Frias’ demise, all the staff members were given water and Liquid IV electrolyte packets. “Why after his death have they started giving out bottled water at our stations if it [the warehouse temperature] has nothing to do with his death? The next day, managers started telling us to drink water and stay hydrated,” a third worker said.
A worker has even filed a complaint with OSHA’s Avenel office, which was seen by The Daily Beast. It read, “A person at our facility died of a heat stroke on July 13. He was telling the managers that the area he worked was too hot. Many others complained as well. They just told employees to work through it, they would be fine. Two hours later he was dead.”
The unnamed individual also accused Amazon of spreading lies, adding, “The AM-Care people just came, put him on a wheel, put a mask on his face, and wheeled him through the facility like nothing happened! We were all in shock. Now management is telling people that he ‘died in the parking lot’ and that I [sic] we talk or mention anything about it we will get fired! This incident was the last straw for me with this company.”
On July 21, Chris Smalls, president of the grassroots Amazon Labor Union(ALU), threw some serious allegations against the company on Twitter. He wrote, “Learned some disturbing details about the worker who passed away I was told not only did they take nearly a hour to call 911 he was unconscious on the floor for over 20 mins. He warned management of chest pains they kept him working in path as a waterspider in heated conditions.”
Learned some disturbing details about the worker who passed away I was told not only did they take nearly a hour to call 911 he was unconscious on the floor for over 20 mins. He warned management of chest pains they kept him working in path as a waterspider in heated conditions.— Christian Smalls (@Shut_downAmazon) July 21, 2022
However, Amazon spokesperson Sam Stephenson dismissed all allegations. He said, “There have been rumors suggesting that his passing was work-related—those statements are false. Our internal investigation has shown that this was not a work-related incident, and instead was related to a personal medical condition. OSHA is currently investigating the incident, and, based upon the evidence currently available to us, we fully expect that it will reach the same conclusion.”
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Stephenson added, “This has been a tragic situation for our employee’s family and for our colleagues at EWR9 who worked with him. We are in contact with his family to offer support and are providing counseling resources to employees needing additional care.”