While Amazon employees across the United States consider unionizing amid reports of unethical and unsafe work conditions, the company has admitted it’s sorry for at least one thing — lying to Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) on Twitter. It all started when the Democratic congressman lambasted Amazon executive Dave Clark for a particularly laughable claim that the company “deliver[s] a progressive workplace.” Pocan quote-tweeted Clark, accusing the company of union-busting and of creating such harried working conditions that employees are forced to pee in bottles.
Amazon’s official PR account then jumped in, replying, “You don’t really believe that peeing bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us.” The company was really caught with its pants down on this one, considering several delivery drivers (and some warehouse workers) had already shared photographic evidence and spoken on the record about this exact claim. The exchange created a twitterstorm, as countless people pointed out Amazon’s blatant lie; and on Friday, Amazon issued Pocan a public apology — kind of. The statement essentially said Amazon is sorry Pocan had his facts wrong.
“This was an own-goal, we’re unhappy about it, and we owe an apology to Representative Pocan,” Amazon said in its statement. While it’s technically an apology, the statement actually reads like a laundry list of reasons Amazon didn’t do anything wrong. Rather than acknowledge its own role in these issues, the company said the whole drivers-peeing-in-bottles-thing is “industry-wide.” The statement also alluded to the fact that the problem only exists for delivery drivers. Their fulfillment centers have “dozens of restrooms” that employees can use “at any time,” they say, ignoring the fact that employees actually don’t have time to piss without fear of missing their quotas. It’s not hard to discern that Amazon is simultaneously apologizing to Pocan to save face while trying to divert attention away from its oppressive working conditions at every turn, as The Verge notes.
In response to the apology, Pocan himself tweeted that “this is not about me, this is about your workers—who you don’t treat with enough respect or dignity.” He continued, “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.” No response from Amazon on that one.
This isn’t the first time Amazon’s PR strategies have had a whiff of rank corporate gaslighting about them. Last month, it was reported that Amazon is further gamifying its already hectic warehouses — basically making it so the company can more efficiently exploit its workers while pretending it’s fun. The month before that, we learned federal regulators had charged the company with skimming nearly $62 million driver tips by using some extremely suspicious math — while telling both customers and prospective employees that they pass 100% of tips to drivers. At this point, it’s clear that we should all take everything bad we hear about Amazon seriously, keep an eye on the company, and support their workers’ right to organize against horrific labor practices.