In a surprising turn of events, Amazon has had to issue an apology and correction for a previous tweet where they said their employees are not forced to urinate in bottles. Their correction and apology clarify that their fulfillment center employees don’t need to pee in bottles, but that Amazon drivers are often forced to relieve themselves in plastic bottles while on the job.
As part of their official statement on the subject, they say that this is an industry-wide problem affecting more than just Amazon drivers, which the pandemic has made worse. With public restroom closures happening everywhere, drivers are having a difficult time finding public restrooms they can use. Relieving themselves anywhere they can find, including on bushes or in plastic bottles, has become a part of their work routines. Amazon isn’t sure what to do about this problem, but says they would use a solution if they had one.
This public statement about Amazon drivers became necessary after a tweet from Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI). Currently, Amazon is being looked at more closely as there is a discussion about forming a worker’s union in Alabama. Amazon is anti-union and insists they take care of their employees, so a union is not necessary. Representative Pocan said that paying your employees $15 an hour isn’t enough if they still have to pee in bottles. Amazon responded to the allegations on Twitter.
Following this exchange, Vice posted photos from Amazon drivers with Powerade and Vitamin Water bottles refilled with urine. Their piece went into detail about the wide documentation of drivers peeing in bottles while on the job, especially on Reddit.
Recode reported that Amazon is employing a more aggressive public response to issues because CEO Jeff Bezos was angry. Bezos felt the company should be doing more to speak up for themselves. In their official statement, the company did specify that they will continue to speak up for themselves. They also said that they felt they needed to hold themselves to a high standard as they spoke their truths. This prompted them to clarify that while they had been focused on fulfillment center workers in their Twitter fight, they had forgotten about Amazon drivers.
This wasn’t the only tweet from the @AmazonNews account that came across as aggressive. There was so much activity where the account was tweeting at Congress members that one of Amazon’s security engineers assumed their Twitter had been hacked. He filed a support ticket so someone would look into the situation.
While Jeff Bezos is still acting CEO of Amazon, he is supposed to be stepping down from the role soon. It will be interesting to see how that affects their ongoing public efforts, though it’s doubtful any of these changes will mean much more for Amazon drivers, who apparently could use improved working conditions.
As the company does more to speak up for themselves politically, they continue to wind up in strange and embarrassing public situations, like having to issue this statement about their Amazon drivers. For example, Amazon has what they call their FC Ambassadors. These are Twitter accounts where they pay their employees to tweet overly positive statements about working for the company. Recently, many of these newer accounts have been tweeting anti-union messages. It’s unclear whether the accounts are paid for by Amazon or who else would be running them.
While getting their social media statements more accurate is one step, it would be nicer if it sounded like they had anything more to offer Amazon drivers to improve their working conditions.