Amazon is trying a new tactic in its endless PR battle against stories of its exhausting and exploitative working conditions: outright denial. It’s not working.
When replying to a tweet from Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) complaining about the company’s union-busting tactics and the fact that some of its workers are forced to “urinate in water bottles,” 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.”
But people do believe these stories and for a very simple reason: there are numerous accounts of it happening, documented by employees and journalists around the world.
Indeed, after Amazon sent out its ill-judged tweet, reporters who cover the company’s labor practices practically lined up to soak the firm with evidence. These included English journalist James Bloodworth, whose 2018 book Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain documented his experience of low-paid work for companies including Amazon:
I was the person who found the pee in the bottle. Trust me, it happened. https://t.co/U76UlDRWSO
— James Bloodworth (@J_Bloodworth) March 25, 2021
Bloodworth’s book led to some of the most widely shared stories about Amazon workers being forced to pee in bottles to save time while meeting the company’s targets, but he’s far from the only one to document this exact example of poor working conditions.
Here’s Will Evans from The Center of Investigative Reporting:
— Will Evans (@willCIR) March 25, 2021
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
And Ken Bensinger from BuzzFeed News:
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
And Alex Press from Jacobin, who shares a much grimmer anecdote of an Amazon worker who suffered a seizure in one of the company’s facilities:
my first response to this was to laugh because it’s such a ridiculous tweet but honestly, this is infuriating. here are the type of texts Amazon workers send me https://t.co/7hW5miBob8 pic.twitter.com/bENxlqzsPa
— Alex Press (@alexnpress) March 25, 2021
Indeed, although Amazon is trying to refute stories of “peeing in bottles” that have become shorthand for the company’s poor working conditions, they’re only the tip of the iceberg.
Other evidence includes the high injury rates in Amazon warehouses (7.7 serious injuries per 100 employees); employees dying from COVID-19 after complaints the company wasn’t doing enough to mitigate risks from the virus; widespread union-busting; production targets that treat humans like robots; and gruesome anecdotes like the story of the Amazon worker who died from a heart attack and who, say colleagues, was left on the work floor for 20 minutes before receiving treatment.
Amazon denied this last story, of course, saying it responded to the man’s collapse “within minutes.” But Amazon has proven its willingness to edit reality. And if the company is happy to suggest its workers never pee in bottles despite many accounts to the contrary, it’s hard to take the company’s “truth” seriously.
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