“Drivers can and do have trouble finding restrooms,” Amazon admits.

By Timothy B. Lee

Amazon has posted an apology to Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) for a tweet last week denying that it makes its workers urinate in water bottles.

The controversy started with a tweet by Pocan blasting Amazon for its treatment of workers—a topic of particular public interest as workers at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama were voting on whether to unionize.

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

“You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you?” Amazon responded on March 24. “If that were true, nobody would work for us.”

Recode’s Jason Del Rey reports that Amazon’s aggressive response was encouraged by CEO Jeff Bezos, who had been frustrated Amazon wasn’t pushing back hard enough against its critics.

But the tweet turned into a PR fiasco for Amazon. The next day, Vice published a story with the headline “Amazon Denies Workers Pee in Bottles. Here Are the Pee Bottles.” It included a photo of bottles with an Amazon worker’s urine in them.

Vice noted that this was a common topic of discussion on the r/AmazonDSPDrivers subreddit.

There are “dozens of threads and hundreds of comments” with drivers lamenting their need to pee in bottles, hedges, and other things besides a toilet.

Now Amazon has changed its tune. “The tweet was incorrect,” Amazon admitted on its website. “It did not contemplate our large driver population and instead wrongly focused only on our fulfillment centers.”

Amazon says that “a typical Amazon fulfillment center has dozens of restrooms, and employees are able to step away from their work station at any time.”

However, the company acknowledged that this isn’t always true for its delivery drivers.

“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,” Amazon wrote.

“This is a long-standing, industry-wide issue and is not specific to Amazon,” the company added. Amazon says it wants to solve the problem: “We don’t yet know how, but will look for solutions.”




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