Amazon is facing immense criticism on social media after it publicly disputed U.S. Democratic Representative Mark Pocan’s claims that the company forces its workers to “urinate in water bottles” in order to minimize time wastage. The e-commerce goliath responded to Rep. Pocan with a seemingly snide remark, saying, “You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us”.
1/2 You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us. The truth is that we have over a million incredible employees around the world who are proud of what they do, and have great wages and health care from day one.— Amazon News (@amazonnews) March 25, 2021
This remark sparked an online firestorm, with thousands of people lambasting Amazon online. In the original tweet, Rep. Mark Pocan, who is also the Chair Emeriti of the House Progressive Caucus, was replying to Amazon executive Dave Clark’s claims of running a “progressive workplace”. In response to Amazon’s remark, Rep. Mark Pocan simply tweeted, “And yes, I do believe your workers. You don’t?”
And yes, I do believe your workers.— Rep. Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) March 25, 2021
There were more than 11,000 responses to Amazon’s tweet denying forcing its workers to urinate in water bottles, largely negative towards Amazon. Amazon’s glib remark attracted the response of multiple journalists. One of the responses was from James Bloodworth, a journalist who went undercover in a British Amazon facility in 2018, wrote that he “found a Coca-Cola bottle containing urine sitting incongruently on a warehouse shelf”.
Another reporter tweeted a picture of the driver policy of a former Amazon contractor, Synctruck, which clearly urges drivers to clean their vans after making all their deliveries. “This includes garbage, bags, and urine bottles,” the driver policy read.
Amazon claims its workers don’t pee in bottles; defenders say it’s an urban legend. But these photos sent to me by a former driver for a former @amazon contractor called Synctruck in a California facility suggest strongly otherwise. https://t.co/hp4zCqOxRO pic.twitter.com/StHNvV9B1x— Ken Bensinger (@kenbensinger) March 25, 2021
A labor reporter responded to Amazon’s tweet, saying, “As a labor reporter who covers Amazon extensively…I can say Amazon delivery drivers not having a time or place to pee is one of the most universal concerns I hear about”, providing testimony from a current Amazon driver who is forced to “pee in a coffee cup everyday”.
As a labor reporter who covers Amazon extensively…I can say Amazon delivery drivers not having a time or place to pee is one of the most universal concerns I hear about https://t.co/pG81MDf5TU pic.twitter.com/h3pGhOok1y— Lauren Kaori Gurley (@LaurenKGurley) March 25, 2021
The Intercept, an online news outfit, published documents that show Amazon management was aware of the issue, enough to reference it in their official documents. A document listing out “violations and defects” from the Pittsburgh Amazon facility expressly mentions both “public urination” and “public defecation”.
All of this controversy comes in the backdrop of a unionization push for an Amazon facility which can potentially catalyze a renewed labor movement in the United States. Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama are right now in the middle of a voting process in order to create a bargaining unit represented by the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU). The deadline for the mail-in voting ballots is March 29.