Amazon quietly issued a rare apology late Friday evening ahead of the Easter long weekend. In a blog post shared to the ‘About Amazon’ webpage, the company apologized for lying about the pee bottles.
Except, the apology was directed to U.S. Congressional Representative Mark Pocan, not to the workers forced to urinate in bottles or defecate in bags while working. Amazon also didn’t really admit any guilt and used the bulk of the post to redirect attention to other companies that have had pee scandals.
As a quick recap, back in March an official Amazon Twitter account got into a spat with Pocan on Twitter over the ongoing unionization vote at one of its Alabama-based facilities. In the exchange, the Amazon account said that if the “peeing in bottles thing… were true, nobody would work for us.” Except, the peeing in bottles thing was — and continues to be — true. The comment sparked tons of media coverage documenting reports about employees not only forced to urinate in bottles, but also defecate in bags. Further, internal Amazon documents leaked to the press showed the company knew about the issue.
Amazon apologized to Pocan for the “incorrect” tweet, noting that “it did not contemplate our large driver population and instead wrongly focused only on our fulfillment centers.”
“A typical Amazon fulfillment center has dozens of restrooms, and employees are able to step away from their work station at any time. If any employee in a fulfillment center has a different experience, we encourage them to speak to their manager and we’ll work to fix it,” the apology reads.
Amazon used the apology to further misrepresent the pee bottle problem
Except, the apology ignores that the peeing in bottles issue is very much a problem for Amazon’s warehouse workers and isn’t limited to delivery drivers. For example, there was a 2018 expose from an undercover reporter about how Amazon warehouse workers were forced to skip bathroom breaks. Just last week, Motherboard interviewed an Amazon warehouse employee who said going to the bathroom “a normal amount… starts becoming a problem.”
“We can be written up, you can be fired,” the worker told Motherboard.
Amazon’s apology sticks to the delivery driver side of things, noting that it can be hard to find restrooms due to traffic or certain rural routes, and that it’s more difficult now with COVID, as many public restrooms are closed. The company also calls the pee bottle problem an “industry-wide” issue and cited media coverage of other delivery and gig workers getting caught urinating in bottles.
And look, Amazon isn’t wrong — delivery drivers, whatever company they work for, are likely to find themselves in difficult situations where they need to pee and have nowhere to go. And yes, it’s a problem exacerbated by the pandemic. But in trying to offload blame, Amazon ignores the fact that it (and other companies) helped create the problem and make it significantly worse by pressuring workers to skip bathroom breaks.
Instead, Amazon’s apology talks about the “flawed” process behind the tweet, and promises to “work hard to always be accurate,” as if the company hadn’t just used its apology to further misrepresent the issue.