Amazon apologized Friday for a tweet directed at Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan last month, in which the company denied its employees work so hard they must urinate in empty water bottles.
Amazon said in a blog post that some delivery drivers might have had to urinate in bottles and it vowed to improve their working conditions.
The matter was first raised March 24 by Pocan, who responded to a tweet by an Amazon executive that said the company was a progressive workplace.
"Paying workers $15/hr doesn’t make you a ‘progressive workplace’ when you union-bust & make workers urinate in water bottles," Pocan said in his tweet.
Amazon responded: "You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us."
On Friday, Amazon apologized to Pocan.
"This was an own-goal, we’re unhappy about it, and we owe an apology to Representative Pocan," the post said.
Amazon went on to call the tweet "incorrect" and to say the company was wrongly focusing on fulfillment centers, which have dozens of restrooms. Amazon also said the tweet did not receive proper scrutiny.
"We need to hold ourselves to an extremely high accuracy bar at all times, and that is especially so when we are criticizing the comments of others."
Amazon also acknowledged that delivery drivers "can and do have trouble finding restrooms because of traffic or sometimes rural routes." The online shopping giant said COVID-19 has made the issue worse since many public restrooms are closed.
Amazon wrote in its blog post that urinating in bottles is an industry-wide problem. To try and prove its point, it shared links to news articles about drivers for other delivery companies who have had to do so.
"Regardless of the fact that this is industry-wide, we would like to solve it," the company said. "We don’t yet know how, but will look for solutions."
Pocan responded to Amazon’s apology and acknowledgment with a "sigh."
"Sigh. This is not about me, this is about your workers - who you don’t treat with enough respect or dignity. Start by acknowledging the inadequate working conditions you’ve created for ALL your workers, then fix that for everyone & finally, let them unionize without interference," Pocan tweeted.
Amazon's treatment of workers has been a hot topic recently as it faces the biggest union push in its history at an Alabama warehouse. Organizers there are pushing for more break time and better pay, with many complaining about the back-breaking 10-hour workdays that include only two 30-minute breaks.
The vote on whether or not to unionize the nearly 6,000 workers at the facility ended Monday. But it could be a while before the results are known.
Experts say the stakes are high for Amazon, as the organizing in Bessemer could set off a chain reaction across its operations nationwide with more workers demanding better working conditions.
Amazon, the second-largest private employer in the country, has a history of crushing unionizing efforts at its warehouses and its Whole Foods grocery stores. Some Amazon workers have unionized in Europe, but the company has managed to fend off unionization in the United States.
This story was reported from Detroit. The Associated Press contributed