Kentucky Candle-Factory Workers To Sue Firm Over 'Flagrant Indifference' To Safety
Reprinted with permission from the Daily Kos
A number of Kentucky candle factory workers who said supervisors threatened them with firing if they left the site before last week’s deadly tornado have sued the company.
The lawsuit states that Mayfield Consumer Products, a major supplier of brands including Bath & Body Works, “showed a ‘flagrant indifference’ to workers' safety the night of the tornado,” The Louisville Courier Journalreports. Attorneys representing the workers are seeking to make the litigation a class action suit.A number of workers said that Mayfield Consumer Products supervisors forbade them from leaving the factory to shelter at home, including using the threat of termination. NBC News reports that workers made the pleas to management several hours before the tornado actually hit Mayfield, which should have given them ample time to safely leave.
As many as 15 workers reportedly asked to leave. The attorney representing a number of workers told Courier Journal earlier this week he possesses "corroborating recorded evidence" backing up workers’ claims.
”The lawsuit also alleges serious violations of worker safety laws and a massive cover-up scheme to protect the interest of the candle factory in western Kentucky,” WLKY reported. “One of the attorneys representing the survivors, William Davis, calls the factory ‘a modern-day sweatshop.’”
As noted earlier, Mayfield Consumer Products had a number of contracts with local jails exploiting the labor of incarcerated people. The company also recruited workers from Puerto Rico, “from economically challenged backgrounds that are willing to move to Kentucky from Puerto Rico for jobs paying $10, $12 an hour,” an attorney who represented a number of Puerto Rican workers in a 2019 lawsuit against the company told WFPL.
In this new lawsuit, “plaintiffs allege that Mayfield Consumer Products required the 110 employees at the factory Friday night to work even though the company ‘knew or should have known about the expected tornado and the danger of serious bodily injuries and death to its employees if its employees were required to remain at its place of business during the pendency of the expected tornado,’” Courier Journal continued.
“I just wish they had called and said, ‘No one come in ’til it’s over, ’til we see what’s going on. ‘Til it’s passed over,’” Ivy Williams told WFPL. His wife, Janine, was among the eight workers killed at the factory.
Courier Journal reports that Mayfield Consumer Products spokesperson Bob Ferguson claimed that because of COVID-19, workers could go home whenever they want. "If someone comes to work, and three hours into the shift, they say ‘I want to go home,’ they're free to go home without penalties, and they can come back to work the next day and start,” he said.
But GOP Rep. James Comer told CNN that the factory had been “going 24/7” to meet Christmas demand. ”It’s easier to conceive of an octet of flying reindeer than of a factory with a come-and-go-as-you-please policy for its employees,” MSNBC opinion editor Jarvis DeBerry wrote.