Amazon spars with Rep. Mark Pocan on Twitter

Bipartisan politicians have condemned Amazon's handling of its Bessemer, Alabama, employees' recent union push

Amazon on Wednesday sparred with Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., on Twitter over the congressman's argument that the tech company is not a "progressive workplace."

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Politicians ranging from Pocan to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., have condemned Amazon's handling of its Bessemer, Alabama, employees' recent union push -- the biggest in the company's 26-year history.

"Paying workers $15/hr doesn't make you a 'progressive workplace' when you union-bust [and] make workers urinate in water bottles," Pocan tweeted in reference to a number of 2018 and 2019 reports detailing worker complaints and investigator findings that employees were urinating in water bottles to save time.

Pocan's criticisms came after Amazon's new CEO, Dave Clark, took a dig at Sanders in a Wednesday tweet, suggesting that, unlike the senator, the tech giant "actually deliver[s] a progressive workplace."

Amazon's official Twitter account responded to Pocan's accusation, questing whether the Wisconsin congressman "really" believes those accusations.

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"You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you?" Amazon tweeted. "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 added that it hopes Pocan "can enact policies that get other employers to offer" the benefits Amazon "already" offers, such as $15 minimum wage.

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Pocan responded saying he believes accusations from Amazon's workers. "You don't?" he tweeted at the company.

A number of reporters who looked into allegations of poor working conditions at Amazon shared proof that employees complained of peeing in water bottles or not having enough time to use the bathroom.

James Bloodworth, author of a 2018 book titled, "Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain," where the water bottle allegations initially surfaced, responded to Amazon's tweet saying, "I was the person who found the pee in the bottle. Trust me, it happened.

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Will Evans, a journalist from the Center for Investigative Reporting, similarly shared his past reporting on Amazon warehouse conditions in which workers complained about not having time to use the bathroom.

Amazon has come under fire for unsuccessfully attempting to delay a vote from employees at its Bessemer, Alabama, facility that will determine whether or not full- and part-time workers can form a union, according to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). According to the company, an in-person election was the best "approach to a valid, fair and successful election."

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However, the NLRB deemed mail-in ballots to be the "safest and most appropriate method of conducting an election in view of the extraordinary circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic," officials wrote in a notice.

The employees are seeking to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. A majority of the 6,000 employees have to vote “yes” in order to unionize. It is the biggest unionization push at the company since it was founded in 1995, carrying high stakes for the second-largest employer in the country, which has a record of crushing unionizing efforts at its warehouses and its Whole Foods grocery stores.

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Although Amazon has said it respects the decision to hold a vote, officials said the warehouse has created thousands of full-time jobs in Bessemer since opening in March and that the average pay is $15.30 per hour, including full health care, vision and dental insurance.

“We respect our employees’ right to join or not join a labor union but we don’t believe this group represents the majority of our employees’ views,” Amazon spokeswoman Heather Knox said earlier this year.