Potty talk: Amazon’s PR swirling over reports of workplace sanitary issues

Company was aware of workers peeing and pooping during deliveries

FILE - This Sept. 6, 2012, file photo, shows the Amazon logo in Santa Monica, Calif. The NFL will nearly double its media revenue to more than $10 billion a season with new rights agreements announced Thursday, March 18, 2021 including a deal with Amazon Prime Video that gives the streaming service exclusive rights to Thursday Night Football beginning in 2022 (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File) (Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistribu)

Working at Amazon might stink, in more ways than one, as Twitter calls out the shipping giant for work conditions that are less than sanitary.

On March 24, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan — who represents the 2nd District of Wisconsin — tweeted at Amazon’s CEO, Dave Clark, who was touting the company’s “progressive workplace” before Sen. Bernie Sanders’ scheduled trip to meet with Amazon employees in Alabama.

“Paying workers $15/hr doesn’t make you a “progressive workplace” when you union-bust & make workers urinate in water bottles,” Pocan wrote in response.

The company’s web-based public relations team took to the company’s defense and said that Pocan’s remarks were nothing but fiction.

“You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us,” the company said. “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. We hope you can enact policies that get other employers to offer what we already do.”

When you’re talking about pee, everyone’s ears start to perk up. But what really got people’s attention was the number 2 problem highlighted in a company letter to employees, which U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shared.

The letter was sent out by Jennifer Snyder, Amazon Logistics’ on-road area manager. Snyder indicates that Amazon was fully aware of drivers leaving bags of poop and bottles of urine in their vehicles.

“This evening, an associate discovered human feces in an Amazon bag that was returned to station by a driver,” the Amazon letter states. “This is the 3rd occasion in the last 2 months when bags have been returned to the station with poop inside. We understand that DAs may have emergencies while on-road, and especially during COVID, DAs have struggled to find bathrooms while delivering. Regardless, DAs cannot, MUST NOT, return bags to the station with poop inside.”

According to Snyder, the company “noticed an uptick” of unsanitary garbage being left behind by drivers and was even capable of identifying drivers who left the undesirable packages behind.

“Please communicate this message to your drivers. I know it may seem obvious or like something you shouldn’t need to coach, but please be explicit when communicating the message that they CANNOT poop or leave bottles of urine inside bags,” Snyder says.

Snyder said similar infractions would result in a Tier 1 infraction going forward.

“None of us should have to deal with these kinds of messes,” Snyder said.

Ocasio-Cortez and Pocan’s claims mirror other claims of bathroom activity being closely monitored by the company as a means of ensuring workplace efficiency.

In a report by the Associated Press, an Amazon employee detailed that as soon as she would walk away from her workstation, her bathroom breaks and other trips away from her workstation were all kept track of.

In Bessemer, Alabama, nearly 6,000 Amazon workers are attempting to complete the largest push for a labor union within the company.

The Associated Press reported that the action in Alabama could set off a chain of events within the company nationwide for better working conditions. Additionally, labor advocates told the Associated Press that this type of movement could inspire workers outside of Amazon to form unions.

An Amazon spokesperson released the following statement to KSAT after this article was first published:

“RWDSU membership has fallen 25% during Stuart Appelbaum’s tenure, but that’s no justification for Mr. Appelbaum to misrepresent the facts.

“Our employees know the truth—starting wages of $15 or more, health care from day one, and a safe and inclusive workplace. We encouraged all of our employees to vote, and their voices will be heard in the days ahead.”

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