Amazon Admits Pee Bottles Are A Thing, Not Denying Union-Busting Either
Last week, whoever runs the Amazon News Twitter account got into a bit of spat with Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan, after Pocan dared mention the corporate behemoth's issues with union-busting and workers having to pee in bottles because they are afraid they will lose their job if they take the time to use an actual bathroom because Amazon tracks everything they do.
Amazon News shot back by tweeting "You don't actually believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you?" as if Pocan was believing some kind of kooky conspiracy theory and not a widely reported thing that many Amazon drivers say they have had to do.
In response, people all over social media and news orgs everywhere (including Wonkette) shared the many pictures and stories shared by Amazon drivers who have said they have to pee in bottles if they don't want to get fired.
Aware of how foolish they looked, Amazon has officially issued an apology to Rep. Pocan, along with an acknowledgement that pee bottles are in fact a thing. However, they are claiming that this is an "industry-wide problem" that affects drivers from various companies, due to the inability to always find places to use the bathroom.
This was an own-goal, we're unhappy about it, and we owe an apology to Representative Pocan.
First, the tweet was incorrect. It did not contemplate our large driver population and instead wrongly focused only on our fulfillment centers. A typical Amazon fulfillment center has dozens of restrooms, and employees are able to step away from their work station at any time. If any employee in a fulfillment center has a different experience, we encourage them to speak to their manager and we'll work to fix it.
Second, our process was flawed. The tweet did not receive proper scrutiny. We need to hold ourselves to an extremely high accuracy bar at all times, and that is especially so when we are criticizing the comments of others.
Third, 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.
This is a long-standing, industry-wide issue and is not specific to Amazon. We've included just a few links below that discuss the issue.
Regardless of the fact that this is industry-wide, we would like to solve it. We don't yet know how, but will look for solutions.
We will continue to speak out when misrepresented, but we will also work hard to always be accurate.
We apologize to Representative Pocan.
Really, they should be apologizing to their drivers and even maybe ending their policy of robotically tracking literally everything their workers do, including when they take bathroom breaks and then firing them automatically if it appears they've gone too often.
Drivers, by the way, are not the only Amazon workers who have been known to resort to pee bottles. For his 2018 exposé Hired: Six Months Undercover In Low Wage Britain, James Bloodworth went undercover in an Amazon warehouse in the U.K. — and reported that pee bottles were a thing there as well, as workers feared getting in trouble for "idle time."
The results of a survey of U.K. Amazon workers also found that the vast majority of them avoided going to the bathroom for fear of repercussions.
You will note that neither the letter nor the tweet denies that the company engages in union-busting. Apparently they're not that bothered if people know that's a thing they are into.
In a few days, we will be getting the results of the Amazon union vote, which could be really big for the future of both Amazon and American labor. If the workers at their Bessemer, Alabama plant vote to unionize, it's likely that other Amazon workers will vote to do so as well, and if they vote to unionize ... well, it's likely to spread to other companies and industries as well.
Anyway! This is now your open thread! Have a nice day!
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse