Amazon asks politician if he actually believes if their employees pee in bottles

Harriet Brewis
Thursday 25 March 2021 14:35
news

Amazon has long been criticised for its treatment of warehouse staff

(Getty Images)

Amazon has long faced scrutiny over its treatment of workers and whether they are forced to take drastic measures to cope with burgeoning workloads.

But one allegation has left a particularly unpleasant taste in the multinational’s mouth.

The online retail giant has been plagued by the accusation that some of its warehouse workers are so overstretched that they are forced to urinate in bottles rather than take toilet breaks.

But today it dismissed the claim during a fiery Twitter exchange.

Democratic lawmaker Mark Pocan had tweeted a message about the company, saying: "Paying workers $15/hr doesn’t make you a ‘progressive workplace’ when you union-bust and make workers urinate in water bottles."

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Amazon’s official Twitter account responded: "You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us.”

It continued: “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."

The “peeing in bottles thing” comes from a claim made by British author James Bloodworth, who went undercover at an Amazon warehouse in 2018.

He reported that workers were admonished for taking toilet breaks and that he had stumbled across a bottle of urine on a warehouse shelf.

Meanwhile, drivers of Amazon-affiliated courier companies have admitted to urinating in bottles to save time on the road.

Amazon’s fierce rebuttal of the accusation has garnered more than 6,000 comments in the 10 hours since it was posted.

Political commentator Brian Tyler Cohen responded with a survey asking fellow Twitter users: “Do you really believe the peeing in bottles thing?”

More than 100,000 people have responded so far, with the overwhelming majority of participants (84 per cent) answering: yes.

Another user commented: “Yes 100%. Used to drive for Amazon and can confirm this happens every single day. You literally plan for it before the shift even starts.”

Another wrote: “As a former employee I do believe it. I worked in delivering station and have found a lot pee bottles in the delivery bags. Yuck!!!!

“They also do not let their employees take a break until it is like 30 minutes before your shift is over.”

And another said: “A friend of mine worked at an Amazon warehouse in Texas for about a month. She said the bathrooms were few and far between, you only had a few minutes per shift to get there, do your business and get back to work, and any time longer than that got deducted from your paycheck.”

Others sprung to Amazon’s defence, with one writing: “It’s really dumb that so many think that is true. So much cynicism it’s sad.”

Another wrote: “I worked there before and if I had to pee, someone just took my spot and I went to the actual bathroom.”

And another said: “I know someone who has worked at Amazon for years in different centers and has never peed in a bottle on a shift.

“However in any large org it is possible some sites are managed poorly causing such problems.”

The debate comes as Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama vote on whether to unionise.

Employees in the city of Bessemer, have until Monday to vote on whether to form what would be the firm’s first union.

Amazon has aggressively opposed the move, telling employees that unions aren’t worth the money and that the company already provides enough benefits to workers, according to Business Insider.

However, a number of high profile Democrats have spoken out in support of unionisation.

Without explicitly naming Amazon, President Joe Biden said in a video posted by Bloomberg that "the choice to join a union is up to the workers."

"There should be no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda," he stressed.

Elsewhere, Bernie Sanders has been unambiguous in his criticism of Amazon’s anti-union drive.

He tweeted on Thursday: “I look forward to meeting with Amazon workers in Alabama on Friday.

“All I want to know is why the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, is spending millions trying to prevent workers from organizing a union so they can negotiate for better wages, benefits and working conditions.”

Meanwhile, Amazon has called on lawmakers to push other employers to offer better benefits.

It ended its “pee bottle” row with Pocan by urging him to “enact policies that get other employers to offer what we already do.”

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