Amazon is one of the largest and most powerful entities on the planet. But this week it bizarrely got into a very petulant public Twitter fight with two top politicians.
The Twitter spat began with news that Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is planning to meet with Amazon workers in Alabama to support their unionization effort. Dave Clark, Amazon’s worldwide consumer CEO, goaded Sanders by citing Amazon’s $15-an-hour starting wage as an example of how Amazon is already a “progressive” workplace. In response to Clark, Democratic Representative Mark Pocan of Wisconsin tweeted that “doesn’t make you a ‘progressive workplace’ when you union-bust & make workers urinate in water bottles.”
Reports that Amazon delivery workers or contractors have resorted to urinating in bottles because they’re pressured for productivity and fear taking bathroom breaks are not new. In fact, they go back years. But Pocan’s tweet set someone off at Amazon, because the verified @amazonnews Twitter account—which says it’s “the official account for news about @amazon”—replied to him with a confrontational message: “You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us.”
Why Amazon would want to amplify this story and ensure that it stays in the Twitter conversation is unclear, but it only got worse after that. The Intercept has since reported on an Amazon internal memo that apparently confirms the practice (and the company’s concerns about it).