An Amazon Prime Truck in downtown Seattle near Amazon HQ. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)
Amazon rarely apologized Friday night and stepped back on comments made on Twitter last week in response to Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin about whether its delivery drivers felt the need to urinate in bottles as bathroom breaks were difficult to reach .
The apology is an unusual admission by the Seattle-based company, which has recently been aggressively defending itself against criticism on Twitter. It also comes when Amazon employees at a fulfillment center in Bessemer, Ala., Are considering a union assignment, with a vote expected sometime next week.
Here is Pocan’s March 24 tweet that started things.
If you pay workers $ 15 an hour, you will not become a “progressive workplace” if you union breakdowns and let workers urinate in water bottles. https://t.co/CnFTtTKA9q
– Rep Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) March 25, 2021
The official Amazon Twitter account @AmazonNews shot back at Pocan:
1/2 You don’t really believe how to pee in bottles, do you? If that were true, no one would work for us. The truth is we have over a million incredible employees around the world who take pride in what they do and have excellent wages and health benefits from day one.
– Amazon News (@amazonnews) March 25, 2021
Pocan replied that he believed the workers at Amazon. And, as GeekWire reported, thousands of other users on Twitter joined the debate.
Amazon said Friday that the tweet was “wrong” and “fails to take into account our large driver population and instead falsely focuses only on our fulfillment centers.”
Amazon gets into controversy over “pee bottles” and whether its employees can take a break from work
The company also said the tweet was not properly reviewed and called its process “flawed”.
However, Amazon has defended itself a little, stating that drivers struggling to find toilets “are a longstanding, industry-wide problem and are not specific to Amazon”. It contained several links to related stories and tweets.
“Regardless of the fact that this is industry-wide, we want to solve it,” the company wrote on Friday. “We don’t know how yet, but we will look for solutions.”
Last week’s saga was an unusual PR pissing match for Amazon that usually avoids such controversy. The matter gained momentum after Recode reported this week that the responses came from above and were directed by none other than founder Jeff Bezos.
In the past, Amazon has had criticism ricocheted off its Teflon cover. And the apology suggests heightened sensitivity as work tensions increase. Bezos hands over the reins of CEO to AWS boss Andy Jassy and ongoing antitrust control.
Here is the full apology posted on the Amazon blog:
Last Wednesday, @amazonnews’ Twitter account sent the following back to Representative Mark Pocan:
1/2 You don’t really believe how to pee in bottles, do you? If that were true, no one would work for us. The truth is we have over a million incredible employees around the world who take pride in what they do and have excellent wages and healthcare from day one.
– Amazon News (@amazonnews) March 25, 2021
This was an own goal, we are unhappy about it and we owe Rep Pocan an apology.
First, the tweet was wrong. It didn’t take into account our large driver population, it just falsely focused on our fulfillment centers. A typical Amazon fulfillment center has dozens of toilets, and employees can step back from their jobs at any time. If an employee at a fulfillment center has a different experience, we encourage them to speak to their manager and we will work to fix it.
Second, our process was flawed. The tweet was not properly checked. We must adhere to a bar with extremely high accuracy at all times, and this is especially true when criticizing the comments of others.
Third, we know that due to traffic or sometimes rural trails, drivers may have trouble finding toilets and this was especially the case in Covid when many public toilets were closed.
This is a longstanding, industry-wide problem that is not specific to Amazon. Below are just a few links that will address the issue.
Regardless of the fact that this is industry wide, we want to solve it. We don’t know how yet, but we will look for solutions.
We will continue to speak out when we are misrepresented, but we will also work hard to always be accurate.
We apologize to representative Pocan.