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).
— Alex Kantrowitz (@Kantrowitz) March 25, 2021
We’ve reached out to Amazon for comment on this and will update if we hear back.
Meanwhile, @amazonnews’ rants weren’t even done for the day. The Amazon Twitter account also became confrontational with Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts when she condemned Amazon for exploiting “loopholes and tax havens to pay close to nothing in taxes.” Amazon shot back by saying Warren makes the tax laws, the company just follows them.
1/3 You make the tax laws @SenWarren; we just follow them. If you don’t like the laws you’ve created, by all means, change them. Here are the facts: Amazon has paid billions of dollars in corporate taxes over the past few years alone.
— Amazon News (@amazonnews) March 26, 2021
Warren wasn’t having it. In a follow-up tweet, she threw the gauntlet down against Amazon, saying the company’s own lawyers and lobbyists wrote “the loopholes you exploit.”
I didn’t write the loopholes you exploit, @amazon – your armies of lawyers and lobbyists did. But you bet I’ll fight to make you pay your fair share. And fight your union-busting. And fight to break up Big Tech so you’re not powerful enough to heckle senators with snotty tweets. https://t.co/3vCAI93MST
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) March 26, 2021
Perhaps by that time, whoever was tweeting from @amazonnews realized the questionable optics of one of the world’s most powerful companies engaging in a competitive public Twitter fight with lawmakers who are trying to hold tech giants to account. Amazon did not reply to Warren’s final tweet.
Of course, that didn’t stop other Twitter users from replying, most mocking Amazon for its very public Twitter spat.
today later that year pic.twitter.com/LcyJi6qUjd
— Sarah ☀️ (@sarah_in_ny) March 26, 2021
new amazon logo just dropped pic.twitter.com/ptsa6nyeYD
— Bes D. Socialist (@besf0rt) March 25, 2021
— Pass the ICOPRO Act (@lightfantastic) March 26, 2021
Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama are voting on whether to unionize this month in what could be a defining moment for the company. Currently, none of its U.S. employees are unionized.