The company says a tweet that suggested otherwise was “incorrect.”
The “thing to pee in bottles” is, in fact, true, Amazon said Friday, when issuing a public apology for a tweet from its Amazon News account that suggested stories about its drivers urinating on bottles while they worked are false.
“You really don’t believe in this thing of peeing in bottles, do you? If that were true, no one would work for us,” said the company in that original March 24 tweet, which was a response to a tweet from Congressman Mark Pocan. Pocan’s tweet read, “Paying workers $ 15 / hour doesn’t make you a ‘progressive workplace’ when you break the union and make workers urinate in water bottles.”
After being asked about his original tweet, Amazon retracted on Friday, saying in a blog post that the tweet was “incorrect” and that he owed Pocan an apology.
“We know that drivers can and have difficulty finding toilets because of traffic or sometimes rural routes,” said the company in the post, “and this was especially the case during Covid, when many public toilets were closed.”
The apology may indicate that the company is having doubts about a series of abnormally aggressive tweets that fired last month. Amazon made headlines in March with sarcastic tweets directed at Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. After Sanders, from Vermont, said he would travel to Alabama in the last days of a union vote at an Amazon warehouse there, the company’s head of consumer operations responded to Twitter.
“I welcome @SenSanders in Birmingham and thank you for your effort for a progressive workplace,” tweeted Dave Clark, an Amazon executive, on March 24. “I often say that we are the Bernie Sanders of employers, but that is not right because we are actually offering a progressive workplace.”
The angry tweets appeared as lawmakers in the United States and elsewhere investigated Amazon and other major technology companies about what critics accused of anti-competitive practices. Companies face potential regulation that may force them to close down or weaken their power. Amazon also faces the prospect of a unionized workforce amid accusations that it mistreats its workers. And critics say Amazon doesn’t pay enough taxes, even though its founder, Jeff Bezos, is one of the richest people in the world.
In its apology on Friday, Amazon said the problem with the bathroom break affects drivers of other delivery services as well, as well as drivers of passenger transportation companies. “Regardless of the fact that this is for the entire industry, we would like to resolve it. We still don’t know how, but we will look for solutions ”, said Amazon in its post.
The company drew the scrutiny of lawmakers and others this year about AI-equipped cameras installed in Amazon vans to monitor drivers and confirm their identities. A company program to discipline delivery drivers, which emerged at the time Amazon’s plans for cameras came into being, would have mentioned “urinating in public” among the actionable crimes. Some drivers said they fear the camera program would increase pressure on them to work even faster and lead to punishment for behaviors that are difficult to avoid under intense time constraints. Amazon said the cameras are just a safety measure, with tests showing significant reductions in things like accidents and distraction while driving.
In its apology on Friday, Amazon also said that the original tweet “erroneously focused only on our call centers”. In 2018, an author disguised himself at an Amazon distribution center in Britain and claimed that workers there urinated in bottles for fear that going to the bathroom could cost them their jobs. Amazon contested that claim. In its Friday post, the company said that distribution center employees can take breaks to go to the bathroom whenever necessary.
“A typical Amazon distribution center has dozens of bathrooms and employees can move away from their workstation at any time,” said the company in the post. “If any employee at a distribution center has a different experience, we encourage you to speak to your manager and we will work to fix it.”