Amazon apologized to a US congressman after mocking claims that its employees sometimes resorted to urinating in plastic bottles, saying its reaction was a “clean target” and “incorrect.”
In a tweet posted last month, Mark Pocan, a Democrat from Wisconsin, criticized Amazon for its anti-union efforts and record on working conditions, drawing special attention to staff who did not have the time to find and use a bathroom.
In response, Amazon tweeted: “You don’t really believe in the wee in bottles thing, do you?” If it was true, no one would work for us.
This sparked backlash and several articles refuting Amazon’s position.
More specifically, The Intercept published a story detailing internal correspondence from Amazon officials concerned that workers will urinate, and in some cases defecate, upon delivery.
In a blog post Amazon said its response “ignored our large driver population and incorrectly focused only on our fulfillment centers,” indicating that it believed the problem was limited to its network of delivery drivers.
“It was an own goal,” Amazon wrote. “We are not happy with that and we owe Rep. Pocan an apology.”
He said the tweet had not been given “proper consideration” internally, but argued that the drivers’ toilet problems were due to “traffic or sometimes rural roads,” a problem which he said had increased due to the closure of public toilets linked to Covid-19.
Amazon then listed a number of tweets and news articles referring to the same issue involving companies such as Uber and UPS. Uber declined to comment. A UPS spokesperson could not be reached.
Amazon added, “Regardless of whether this is industry wide, we would like to resolve it. We do not yet know how to do this, but will look for solutions. “
The apology comes as nearly 6,000 Amazon workers at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, wait for the results of a vote on unionization. Counting is expected to start early next week. If the union is successful, it will be the first time Amazon workers in the country have gained collective bargaining power.
Supporters see the union campaign, which has drawn considerable political support, as a potential starting point for the action of the US-based e-commerce giant’s workforce, which has grown rapidly during the pandemic. and now has more than 950,000 people.
This figure does not include its delivery drivers, who are hired by third party providers. Over the weekend, a number of drivers pledged to quit their jobs to protest what they see as unacceptable workloads as Amazon continues to face increased demand in the event of a pandemic.
“197 stops is ridiculous,” said a driver in a video posted on Reddit on Friday. “It’s unrealistic to do this in a reasonable amount of time. How is this safe? “
He added: “This has to stop, we have to unionize. And by the way, yes, we all pee in bottles – we have to.