Pocan 2, workers 0
Amazon issued a rare public apology – but not to its workers, and with no real admission of guilt.
More than a week ago, the company was caught publicly lying to Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) that its workers never feel the need to pee in water bottles (which is, in fact, a well-documented problem on Amazon because of how it tracks and robs its workers robotically).
Now, at the end of the Friday night before the Easter weekend, when few (tip for GeekWire) are paying attention, the company is apologizing to Pocan – and to no one else. Amazon also apologizes for not being “accurate” enough – not for actually creating and contributing to situations where workers urinate in bottles.
In fact, Amazon even suggests that the whole pee bottle thing is simply an unfortunate status quo, sometimes pointing out when delivery drivers from other companies were also caught peeing in bottles, as well as incorporating a handful of random comments on Twitter that support Amazon’s views. You can almost hear Jeff Bezos saying, “Why are these people not blaming UPS and FedEx? Let’s get more people to think about them. “
The blog post also strongly suggests that this is just a problem for delivery people, not Amazon warehouse workers – although a 2018 complaint from an undercover reporter found that Amazon warehouse workers were also forced to miss the bathroom, and a worker who spoke to reporters just last week, bathroom breaks were still an issue in 2021. “You are sitting there and you need to pee, but you don’t want to accumulate ‘chores on tasks’,” she told Motherboard.
Amazon is also facing legal action for lack of a lunch break. Most importantly, all of this is happening in the shadow of an Amazon union vote in Bessemer, Alabama, that could help shape the future of work in the United States, let alone Amazon.
Amazon’s apology to Pocan is the kind of memo that deserves to be noted, line by line, in part because one of its lines is actually quite good – “Despite being the entire industry, we would like to resolve it. We still don’t know how, but we will look for solutions ”- but as it was after 1 am here and I found out that The Verge’s blockquote tool doesn’t allow me to incorporate tweets, I’ll just give you the essence for now:
On Wednesday of last week, the Twitter account @amazonnews tweeted the following to Representative Mark Pocan:
This was a goal against, we are unhappy with that and we owe an apology to Representative Pocan.
First, the tweet was incorrect. It did not address our large population of drivers and instead erroneously focused only on our call centers. A typical Amazon distribution center has dozens of bathrooms, and employees can move away from their workstation at any time. If any employee at a distribution center has a different experience, we encourage you to speak with your manager and will work to correct this.
Second, our process has failed. The tweet did not receive due scrutiny. We always need to maintain an extremely high level of accuracy, especially when we are criticizing other people’s comments.
Third, we know that drivers can and have difficulty finding toilets because of traffic or, sometimes, rural routes, and this was especially the case during Covid, when many public toilets were closed.
This is an age-old problem that spans the entire industry and is not specific to Amazon. We’ve included just a few links below that discuss the problem.
Regardless of the fact that this is the entire industry, we would like to resolve it. We still don’t know how, but we will look for solutions.
We will continue to speak openly when they are poorly represented, but we will also work hard to always be accurate.
We apologize to Representative Pocan.
You can read the full version here. When you’re done, you might take a look at Motherboard’s interview with six Amazon delivery women, for whom the pee situation is obviously much worse.