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Amazon not-so Prime: Company slammed for treatment of employees

Roar writer Jonathan Gleave on Amazon employees’ severe mistreatment at the hands of the trillion-dollar company. 

Amazon’s public relations team picked the wrong day to try and fight back against criticism. On Wednesday evening, US Congressmen Mark Pocan spoke out against Amazons well-documented abuse of worker’s rights. Pocan tweeted “paying workers $15 an hour doesn’t make you a ‘progressive workplace’ when you union-bust and make workers urinate in bottles”.

Pocan was referring to a recent scandal where Amazon employees were unable to relieve themselves due to the pressure of meeting their targets. Amazon’s response to the Congressman via Twitter led to intense criticism when they implied that the Congressman was foolish for believing the workers:

“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 company’s Tweet received a lot of angry responses from Amazon employees:

“I pee in a coffee cup everyday. I have had termination or write up threats weekly. I go home in pain everyday.” said employee Lauren Kaori Gurley.

“Adam Keester, who worked as a picker at a fulfilment centre in Phoenix until last year, said he and other workers would bring customers’ orders into the bathroom with them to scan midway through” said Will Evans from Reveal.

Having to urinate in bottles to meet quotas is not a problem that’s exclusive to Amazon workers in the United States, however. A 2018 survey targeted at Amazon workers in the United Kingdom saw that 74% report that they avoided going to the toilet at work with most giving the reason that they were afraid of missing their targets. Amazon denied these claims by saying “We have a focus on ensuring we provide a great environment for all our employees and last month Amazon was named by Linkedin as the 7th most sought after place to work in the UK”.

However, this fails to recognise that Amazon does not only hire warehouse workers but also employs many people in more comfortable back-office positions. They also tried to attack the reliability of the report, saying “we have not been provided with confirmation that the people who completed the survey worked at Amazon and we don’t recognise these allegations as an accurate portrayal of activities in our buildings.”

This attempt to deny that workers have to urinate in bottles was stopped in its tracks on March 25th. Employees from Amazon have provided documents to The Intercept which showed that Amazon knew the workers did not have enough time to take a toilet break a year ago. In May of 2020, Jed Snyder, the On-Road Area Manager for Amazon, emailed workers about human faeces that had been found not for the first or second but the third time in two months. The faeces are not only found in Amazon vans but also on grass verges. Residents of a Kent village, Hoo, have installed a toilet as a form of protest that Amazon drivers are having to relieve themselves on grass verges.

There is a facility owned by Amazon for their employees to use but they were charging their employees to use them. It’s not as if Amazon cannot afford to provide facilities for their employees to use. The delivery drivers earn £12.65 an hour in the UK, according to Indeed. For one of the worlds richest companies whose market cap is up to $1.7 trillion, it seems unfair to charge workers to use the companies toilets.

These accusations and the Hoo poo story have come out after an incredibly profitable year for Amazon where annual sales were up by 51%. Amazon is seeking to further infringe on their employees’ rights with drivers being forced to sign biometric consent forms or be let go from the company. These forms would let cameras watch the drivers while they were working. With all the delivery drivers having to relieve themselves in their vans it is a bit strange that someone would want to watch this.

Jonathan Gleave

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