After falsely denying stories of employees peeing in bottles during their hellish shifts, global e-commerce giant Amazon has issued an apology to Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan on Friday, April 2.
In its blog post, Amazon said it was “incorrect” to deny the allegations. The company had responded to a tweet by Pocan on March 25, telling the lawmaker that no one would work for the company if the stories of workers having to pee in bottles were true. Pocan mentioned the stories in his tweet and slammed the company for its history of union-busting.
It wasn’t long before former and current workers at the e-commerce corporation started coming out with their own experiences of having to pee in bottles while on the road delivering packages. The Intercept, a nonprofit news organization, also said it obtained documents showing Amazon executives were aware of the practice.
In its blog post, the online retailer said its response to Pocan’s tweet was an “own-goal.” “[We’re] unhappy about it, and we owe an apology to Representative Pocan.”
Amazon said the tweet did not take into account their large driver population. Instead, it focused only on their fulfillment centers. Each of these fulfillment centers has dozens of restrooms, said Amazon. Employees at these centers are also able to step away from their workstations “at any time” to use the restroom.
Amazon also said the tweet did not receive “proper scrutiny” prior to being posted. “We need to hold ourselves to an extremely high accuracy bar at all times,” the company remarked.
Finally, Amazon admitted that drivers do have trouble finding restrooms when out doing deliveries because of traffic and, in some cases, rural routes. Drivers have had an especially harder time during the coronavirus pandemic because many public restrooms and rest stops have been closed.
Amazon said the issue of workers having to pee in bottles is an industry-wide issue. The company said it will look for possible solutions to the problem.
Though coming from a corporation known for union-busting, the statement left much to be desired. In a tweet on Saturday, Pocan emphasized that the issue ultimately wasn’t about him. “[This] is about your workers — who you don’t treat with enough respect or dignity,” he told the company.
Amazon can start doing that by acknowledging the inadequate working conditions it has created for all of its workers. According to Pocan, Amazon can also show respect for its workers by letting them unionize without interference. (Related: Whole Foods secretly using AI tech as a weapon to squash efforts at unionization.)
On Monday, workers at Amazon’s huge processing facility in Alabama cast more than 3,000 ballots in the vote on whether to form the first union for hourly Amazon workers. The results of the initiative, which Amazon has strongly resisted, have yet to be announced.
Meanwhile, British journalist James Bloodworth said the image of a plastic bottle filled with what smelled and looked like urine has become “an iconic image.” Bloodworth had gone undercover in 2018 at an Amazon warehouse in the United Kingdom to document the hardship of low-wage work there.
In a book about the investigation that he later published, Bloodworth recounted coming across what appeared to be a bottle of urine hidden on a warehouse shelf. He assumed the pee-filled bottle was one of the workers’ solution to the difficulty of squeezing in bathroom breaks at the Amazon facility. Amazon had repeatedly refuted Bloodworth’s claim of finding such a bottle in its facility.
Bloodworth said the bottle has become iconic because workers of the wealthiest online retailer were terrified to even take proper bathroom breaks to relieve themselves. “That is quite a shocking thing in the 21st century.”
JeffBezosWatch.com has more stories about how Amazon takes advantage of its workers.