'Pee in the bottle' puts Amazon in a tight spot

AFP
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.
AFP

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 Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat.

“Paying workers US$15/hr doesn’t make you a ‘progressive workplace’ when you union-bust & make workers urinate in water bottles,” Pocan tweeted, 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.”

But several news media then cited numerous Amazon employees who said they had, in fact, been left with little choice but to use plastic bottles.

And the website The Intercept said it had obtained internal documents showing 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 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 in the statement, had dozens of restrooms that employees could use “at any time.”

It described the problem as “a long-standing, industry-wide issue.”

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