Amazon has issued an apology to a US politician and admitted to some of its drivers urinating in bottles due to high-pressure working arrangements and the absence of a more effective occupational health and safety system.
The e-commerce giant issued an apology after a US lawmaker criticised Amazon for its workplace policies, which the company denied in a series of tweets.
It comes as a number of Amazon’s workers attempt to form a union; a move that is strongly opposed by Amazon who says it provides high-wages, healthcare and more opportunities than a unionised workforce would receive.
Last week, Democratic politician Mark Pocan tweeted that “paying your workers $15/hr does not make you a ‘progressive workplace’ when you union-bust and make workers urinate in water bottles.”
Amazon objected to the tweet, responding that “You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us.”
Mr Pocan has been critical of Amazon’s attempts to thwart unionisation of its workforce.
In the days since the exchange of tweets, Amazon has issued an apology to Mr Pocan after evidence of its drivers urinating in bottles was presented.
According to a report from the BBC, “several news outlets then quoted numerous Amazon employees who confirmed that they had been left with little option but to urinate in plastic bottles while working. They also described relentless working practices, both in its fulfillment centers and as delivery drivers.”
Internal documents published by The Intercept show that managers and high level executives within Amazon were aware of the fact a number of its drivers were urinating in bottles.
Amazon issued a statement saying that “we owe an apology to Representative Pocan,” the company said. “The tweet was incorrect. It did not contemplate our large driver population and instead wrongly focussed only on our fulfillment centers.”
Amazon added that inside its fulfilment centres, employees are able to use the toilets “at any time.”
“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 added that it was a “long-standing, industry-wide issue,” and the company “would like to solve it.”
Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama have cast their votes as to whether or not they should unionise with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.
The results of that vote are expected to be published some time this week.
Mr Pocan seemingly brushed off Amazon’s apology, responding in a tweet that “this is not about me, this is about your workers – who you don’t treat with enough respect or dignity.”
Pocan added that “start by acknowledging the inadequate working conditions you’ve created for ALL your workers, then fix that for everyone and finally, let them unionise without interference.”