Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has waded into the fight over Amazon’s treatment of its staff, claiming that a relative of hers left the company amid impossible performance pressure, and that ‘defecating in bags’ is a common strategy to maintain work speed.
Ocasio-Cortez spoke out as nearly 6,000 Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, are deciding whether they want to form a union – the biggest labor push in the online shopping giant’s history.
The organizing in Bessemer could set off a chain reaction across its operations nationwide, with more workers rising up and demanding better working conditions. Vote counting began on Tuesday, and could take several days.
AOC joined Democrats including Bernie Sanders and Wisconsin Representative Mark Pocan who are demanding the multimillion tech giant allows workers to form unions to be able to push for better conditions.
The New York congresswoman tweeted on Tuesday night: ‘A loved one of mine worked Amazon delivery last year & left because that’s how dangerous it felt to them working for a company that also puts so much performance pressure on their workers that defecating in bags is a common enough occurrence that there are internal memos about it.’
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, pictured March 18, condemned Amazon’s work practices Tuesday
Her claim is a frequently-made complaint.
The practice of peeing in bottles to maintain workflow in Amazon warehouses is fairly well-documented.
Even delivery drivers claim to be under such pressure that relieving oneself couples with threats of joblessness.
Last week, Rep Pocan made a similar claim to Ocasio-Cortez.
‘Paying workers $15/hr doesn’t make you a ‘progressive workplace’ when you union-bust & make workers urinate in water bottles,’ he said in a Wednesday night tweet.
Amazon replied, on their official Twitter account: ‘You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you?
‘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.’
Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin alleged the company made workers pee in bottles because of a lack of break time; he amplified allegations that Amazon was busting a union
Amazon’s corporate communications department hit back at Pocan last week
According to Brookings, Amazon and Walmart combined raked in about $10.7 billion in profits over the course of the pandemic signaling a 56 per cent increase in business – something the institute attributed to Americans spending more on home delivery rather than venturing out the stores to avoid exposure during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two corporations, Brookings said, could have quadrupled compensation for their workers and still turned a handsome profit compared to the year prior.
Moreover, by October 2020, Amazon recorded that about 20,000 employees had been sick with COVID-19 after many workers came forward about the hazardous conditions in facilities.
Ocasio-Cortez continued: ‘Amazon workers in my district organized to meet with me in private last year. They were terrified & sobbing at being left in the dark about COVID exposures on the job + finding out about worksite infections through the grapevine.’
Bernie Sanders, senator for Vermont, tweeted his support for the push for unionization in Alabama.
‘Amazon workers in Alabama are sick and tired of being treated like robots. They are standing up and fighting back, and I am proud to support them,’ he said.
An Amazon warehouse that labor is trying to organize is shown in Bessemer, Alabama
Carney, Obama’s press secretary, is now Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide corporate affairs
Amazon’s communications chief Jay Carney, who was White House press secretary under Barack Obama, responded that, at Amazon, they ‘treat employees with dignity and respect.’
He invited Sanders to visit their facilities, noting: ‘Since there are 40m Americans earning less than Amazon’s starting wage, we ask you and your colleagues to please raise the federal minimum to $15 as well.’
Ocasio-Cortez shrugged off his offer to visit one of their sites, insisting that the visits were always staged and a waste of time.