Amazon sparked an uproar Thursday by denying reports that its delivery people were forced to urinate in bottles due to lack of access to bathrooms, but a leaked internal memo shows the company is aware of the problem. for at least several months.
Documents provided by Amazon employees to The Intercept showed that an email sent in May 2020 berated workers for urinating in bottles and defecating in bags at work.
“Tonight, an associate discovered human feces in an Amazon bag that was returned to the station by a driver,” the email read. “This is the third time in the past 2 months that the bags have returned to the station with shit inside. We understand that DA [driver associates] may have emergencies on the road, and especially during Covid, ADs struggled to find a toilet during childbirth. “
Workers told Intercept the issue was mentioned often in internal discussions, with a former Amazon employee telling the publication that the drivers were “implicitly forced to do it, otherwise we would end up losing our jobs for too much.” packages not delivered ”.
The revelation follows a combative tweet from Amazon to a Wisconsin congressman, who criticized the company over working conditions. The saga unfolded in the midst of a confrontation with workers in Alabama trying to organize the workplace.
This isn’t the first time that workers at Amazon, which is known for its grueling hours, have spoken out on the issue. Workers have previously told the Guardian that they have to urinate in water bottles daily for fear of missing delivery rates. A forum on Reddit dedicated to Amazon drivers, which, while it is impossible to fully verify authenticity, nonetheless shows hundreds of comments from drivers claiming that they frequently have to urinate in water bottles for lack of breaks in the bathroom at work, especially as the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the number of deliveries. Amazon saw its sales increase 37% in a single quarter in 2020, and executive Jeff Bezos personally saw his personal net worth increase by $ 70 billion during the pandemic.
The bathroom controversy on display Thursday marks just the latest flashback to how Amazon treats employees – and its delivery drivers in particular. Earlier this week, Vice reported drivers were forced to sign “biometric consent” forms to continue working for the retail giant.
These forms would allow AI-powered cameras to monitor drivers, who number approximately 75,000 in the United States, while they are on the clock. Evan Greer, deputy director of workers’ rights and privacy group Fight for the Future, said lawmakers must ban biometric surveillance entirely because workers attempting to stay afloat during periods precarious cannot reasonably refuse the policy if it means losing a job. .
“Forcing workers to accept constant surveillance by racist AI-powered surveillance cameras or to be fired is not how consent works,” she said. “Lawmakers should act now to ban these practices altogether. No one should be forced to work in inhumane conditions and hand over sensitive biometric information to their boss, just to put food on the table.
Amazon did not respond to the request for comment.