The Amazon strike in Bessemer, Ala. has captured the eyes of the nation. Several politicians have made appearances and offered statements of solidarity. Even Joe Biden chimed in about the company’s working conditions and how workers should get to have a say, an unprecedented statement of support from a sitting president.
Amazon has felt this type of pressure for years, but never quite so acutely. It seems people are finally fed up with the endless abuse and inhumanity their workers put up with for obscenely low wages. The company’s spent untold millions on union busting tactics to suppress the formation of the first ever American warehouse union. But even the hacks at Amazon know that’ll only get you so far—the next best thing is to just twee through it.
Responding to criticism about working conditions and wages from Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan, the Amazon News Twitter account offered up the now-infamous question: you don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? It was asked in reference to a specific charge levied by Pocan about Amazon warehouse workers being so time regimented they are forced to urinate in bottles for fear of dipping below productivity standards and potentially losing their jobs. The response to the tweet was quick and almost universally negative, not just because of the inherent smugness, but also because it’s an outright lie. The Amazon News account claimed that if those stories were true “nobody would work” for them. The stories are true, of course—Amazon workers do pee in bottles and even defecate in bags for those exact reasons.
— Cory Doctorow (@doctorow) March 26, 2021
The “peeing in bottles” post is the type of social media interaction an abusive megacorporation is bound to have when actively trying to suppress its workers’ organizing. It’s more than just a lie, it’s an easily refutable one. It’s almost as if Amazon doesn’t realize these criticisms are playing out on the a social media platform where a) anti-corporate sentiment is extremely high and b) people can simply open a new tab and pull up countless stories about Amazon’s laundry list of abuses.
Twitter is arguably the worst place to fight this battle, but it’s no shock to see them keep it up. In response to a video Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren posted about Amazon not paying taxes, the Amazon News account responded by saying “you write the tax laws…we just follow them,” before closing out the thread by asking to “please raise the federal minimum wage” to $15 an hour.
3/3 So what have we done about that? $350B in investments since 2010 & 400K new US jobs last year alone. And while you’re working on changing the tax code, can we please raise the federal minimum wage to $15?
— Amazon News (@amazonnews) March 26, 2021
Amazon’s exchange with Warren doesn’t quite match the smugness of their interaction with Pocan, but it’s close. A trillion dollar company that pays next to nothing in taxes demanding a federal wage hike is rich, considering the moment legislation was actually put in motion they’d send an army of lobbyists to fight it. This is the point when any regular social media user would take the temperature of the room and log off. Amazon can’t do that, obviously. Its social media managers are too self-unaware and pot committed to give a damn.
Maybe Amazon shamelessly posting through it is a good thing, at least in a way. Perhaps some of the outrage it generates online will transfer to the real world in helping strikers in Alabama and beyond. It also heightens their contradictions, but that brazenness cuts both ways—if you’re willing to make yourself look this fucking stupid, you’re willing to do just about anything.