Amazon kicked off the holiday weekend by backtracking slightly on a social media offensive that unfolded in the waning days of a historic unionization vote. The earlier comments reportedly arrived as Jeff Bezos was pushing for a more aggressive strategy.
Along with taking on Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the Amazon News Twitter account went toe to toe with Congressman Mark Pocan. The Wisconsin Democrat cited oft-reported stories of Amazon workers urinating in bottles in reaction to comments from Consumer CEO, Dave Clark.
“You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you?” the account asked. “If that were true, nobody would work for us. The truth is that we have over a million incredible employees around the world who are proud of what they do, and have great wages and health care from day one.”
The congressman’s initial response was pithy and to the point: “[Y]es, I do believe your workers. You don’t?”
Subsequent reports have served to cement those stories. One called the urination issue “widespread” among Amazon drivers, adding that defecation had also, reportedly, become a problem. Last night, the company offered a mea culpa of sorts, saying it “owe[s] an apology to Representative Pocan.”
Things break down a bit from there. Amazon’s apology acknowledges that workers peeing in bottles is a thing, but appears to imply that it’s limited to drivers and not the fulfillment center staff at the center of this large scale unionization effort. From there, the company adds that drivers peeing in bottles is an “industrywide issue and is not specific to Amazon.”
The company helpfully includes a list of links and tweets that are, at very least, an indictment of the gig economy and the treatment of blue collar workers, generally. Essentially, Amazon is admitting to being a part of the problem, while working to spread the blame across an admittedly faulty system.
Reports of workers urinating in bottles also go beyond drivers, including stories of warehouse employees resorting to the act in order to meet stringent quotas.
“A typical Amazon fulfillment center has dozens of restrooms, and employees are able to step away from their work station at any time,” company writes in the post attributed to anonymous Amazon Staff. “If any employee in a fulfillment center has a different experience, we encourage them to speak to their manager and we’ll work to fix it.”
Union vote counting for the company’s Bessemer, Alabama warehouse began last week. Results could have a wide-ranging impact on both Amazon and the industry at large.