Amazon is backtracking on a viral social media comment it made last week denying claims that time-pressed workers have to pee in bottles.
The tech giant posted an online apology late Friday to U.S. Rep Mark Pocan following the company’s snarky Twitter response to worker issues he raised nearly 10 days ago.
The Democratic congressman from Wisconsin, replying to a tweet from a top Amazon executive calling Amazon a progressive workplace, said Amazon can’t call itself a progressive workplace when it “union-busts and makes workers urinate in bottles.”
The company’s official response on Twitter: “You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us. 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 response went viral, with employees and others posting photos and reports about urinating in bottles. One former driver said she was fired for taking restroom and meal breaks and said visitors to any Amazon delivery warehouse will see “pee bottles thrown on the side of the road.”
Amazon’s apology to Pocan, published in a blog post, said the company’s tweet was incorrect and was referring to Amazon’s warehouses, which have “dozens of restrooms,” not its 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,” the apology said.
The company said the problem is not unique to Amazon and posted links to news reports about Uber, taxi and UPS drivers having to urinate on the go.
“Regardless of the fact that this is industry-wide, we would like to solve it. We don’t yet know how, but will look for solutions,” the company said.
“We apologize to Representative Pocan,” Amazon said.
Pocan’s response via Twitter on Saturday: “Sigh. This is not about me, this is about your workers—who you don’t treat with enough respect or dignity. Start by acknowledging the inadequate working conditions you’ve created for ALL your workers, then fix that for everyone & finally, let them unionize without interference.”
USA TODAY reached out to Amazon for comments on allegations workers have to urinate in bottles because bathroom breaks are discouraged.
Reports of Amazon workers urinating in bottles aren’t new, but worker issues are in the limelight today as Amazon is facing the biggest union push in its history.
In January, Amazon requested in-person unionizing vote for a “valid, fair and successful election” in Alabama despite COVID concerns.
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