Amazon caused an uproar Thursday when it denied reports that its delivery workers were forced to urinate in bottles due to lack of access to restrooms, but a leaked internal memo shows that the company has been aware of the problem for at least least several months.
Documents provided by Amazon employees to Intercept showed that an email sent in May 2020 admonished workers for urinating in bottles and defecating in bags while 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 last 2 months that the bags have been returned to the station with poop inside. We understand that DA’s [driver associates] they can have emergencies while on the road, and especially during Covid, DAs have had a hard time finding toilets during labor. “
Workers told Intercept that the issue was commonly mentioned in internal discussions, and a former Amazon employee told the post that drivers are “implicitly obligated to do so, otherwise we will end up losing our jobs over too many ‘packages. undelivered ‘”.
The revelation followed a combative tweet from Amazon to a Wisconsin congressman, who criticized the company for working conditions. The saga unfolded amid a clash with workers in Alabama trying to unionize the workplace.
It is not the first time that workers at Amazon, known for its grueling hours, have spoken out on the problem. Workers had previously told The Guardian that they needed to urinate into the water bottles on a daily basis for fear of missing delivery rates. A forum on Reddit dedicated to Amazon drivers, which, while impossible to fully scrutinize for authenticity, shows hundreds of comments from drivers claiming that they frequently have to urinate in water bottles due to lack of breaks to go. to the bathroom while at work, particularly as the Covid-19 pandemic increased the number of deliveries. Amazon saw a 37% increase in sales in just one quarter in 2020 and executive Jeff Bezos personally saw his personal net worth increase by $ 70 billion during the pandemic.
The bathroom controversy exposed Thursday marks just the latest setback around 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 artificial intelligence-powered cameras to keep an eye on drivers, who number about 75,000 in the United States, while they are on the clock. Evan Greer, deputy director of the privacy and worker rights advocacy group Fight for the Future, said lawmakers should ban biometric surveillance altogether, because workers trying to stay afloat cannot be reasonably expected for long periods of time. Precarious reject the policy if it means losing a job. .
“Forcing workers to agree to constant monitoring by racist, AI-powered surveillance cameras or to be fired is not how consent works,” he said. “Legislators should act now to ban these practices completely. No one should be forced to work in inhumane conditions and hand over their sensitive biometric information to their boss, just to put food on the table. “
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.