E-commerce giant Amazon has apologized to a US lawmaker after falsely denying that some of its drivers are forced at times to urinate in plastic bottles.
The flap started last week with a tweet from US Representative Mark Pocan, a Democrat.
“Paying workers $15/hr doesn’t make you a ‘progressive workplace’ when you union-bust & make workers urinate in water bottles,” Pocan wrote on Twitter, in an apparent reference to Amazon’s opposition to efforts to unionize a major facility in Alabama.
Amazon’s official account quickly responded, saying: “You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us.”
However, several news media then cited numerous Amazon employees who said they had been left with little choice but to use plastic bottles.
The Web site The Intercept said it had obtained internal documents showing that Amazon executives were aware of the practice.
The workers’ testimony underlined the complaints of many Amazon employees — both in its processing facilities and among its drivers — about what they say is a relentless work pace.
“We owe an apology to Representative Pocan,” Amazon said in a statement late on Friday.
“The tweet was incorrect. It did not contemplate our large driver population and instead wrongly focused only on our fulfillment centers,” each of which, it said, has dozens of restrooms that employees can use “at any time.”
“We know that drivers can and do have trouble finding restrooms because of traffic or sometimes rural routes, and this has been especially the case during Covid when many public restrooms have been closed,” Amazon said.
It described the problem as “a long-standing, industry-wide issue,” adding that “we would like to solve it.”
Pocan on Saturday responded on Twitter, saying: “Sigh. This is not about me, this is about your workers - who you don’t treat with enough respect or dignity.”
“Start by acknowledging the inadequate working conditions you’ve created for ALL your workers, then fix that for everyone & finally, let them unionize without interference,” he said.
Workers at Amazon’s huge processing facility in Bessemer, Alabama, completed a vote Monday last week on whether to unionize — an initiative strongly resisted by the company. The result has not been announced.
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