An aggressive series of tweets sent from Amazon’s corporate account against two of the Senate‘s most liberal members and frequent critics of the retail giant were ordered from the very top: company founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.
Amazon went after Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders on social media following Bezos’s orders to fight back against what the senators were saying about an ongoing drive to form a union at an Amazon fulfillment center in Alabama.
Bezos expressed dissatisfaction in recent weeks that company officials were not more aggressive in pushing back against criticisms that he and other leaders deemed inaccurate or misleading, Vox’s Recode reported.
Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and Sanders, and independent from neighboring Vermont, have both been slammed the company, with Warren tweeting broadsides about the Amazon not paying taxes or treating its workers fairly and Sanders saying it’s trying to stonewall the union effort in Alabama.
An exchange with Warren on Friday began with her criticizing the company’s tax payments and calling to ‘break up’ Big Tech.
Amazon followed with a response, saying: ‘This is extraordinary and revealing. One of the most powerful politicians in the United States just said she’s going to break up an American company so that they can’t criticize her anymore.’
The official ‘Amazon News’ Twitter account criticizes Sen. Elizabeth Warren as part of a campaign of social media pushback against liberal lawmakers last week
An exchange with Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts began with her criticizing the company’s tax payments – and Amazon soon hit back hard, leading to a back-and-forth that was reported to have been orchestrated from the very top: Jeff Bezos himself
Jeff Bezos is said to have been frustrated by the beating the company was taking from liberal lawmakers as a fulfillment center in Alabama gets set to vote on a union. He directed the company’s social media managers to hit back harder again the firebrand politicians
The Twitter back-and-forth comes at a potentially big inflection point for Amazon.
The union election results at the fulfillment center in Alabama are expected to be tallied this week following a months-long dispute that has sparked intense debate over workplace conditions at Amazon, which has more than 800,000 U.S. employees.
A majority of employees voting to unionize the warehouse could set off a chain reaction at other facilities and potentially force the e-commerce giant to overhaul management of its frontline U.S. workforce.
In Alabama, nearly 6,000 workers are eligible to vote, whereas the last unionization vote at an Amazon U.S. facility occurred in 2014 and only involved 27 technicians and mechanics at a warehouse in Delaware.
‘Amazon’s biggest fear already happened: 3,000 of their own employees said we cannot work in these conditions,’ said Joshua Brewer, the local president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. ‘It exposed a systemic problem in Amazon’s warehouses.’
Now, it appears Bezos is orchestrating the effort to fight back on social media.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont speaks at a press conference after a rally in support of unionization for the Birmingham Amazon facility at the RWDSU office in Birmingham, Alabama, on March 26
A Twitter post by Amazon CEO Worldwide Consumer Dave Clark attacks Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has voiced support for unionization efforts at the company’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama
Dave Clark of Amazon attacks Sen. Bernie Sanders on Twitter as part of a reported mandate from the company to fight back against its critics
Dave Clark, Amazon CEO Worldwide Consumer, speaks during a press conference in Seattle, Washington, on June 27, 2018
Plans for a Sanders visit to the Alabama facility made news last week, which opened the tweet barrage against lawmakers starting with a March 24 post by Amazon’s CEO for its worldwide consumer division, Dave Clark.
‘I welcome @SenSanders to Birmingham and appreciate his push for a progressive workplace. I often say we are the Bernie Sanders of employers, but that’s not quite right because we actually deliver a progressive workplace,’ Clark wrote.
Within hours, the official ‘Amazon News’ media relations Twitter account, which has more than 170,000 followers, targeted Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, who questioned Clark’s ‘progressive workplace’ assertion by alluding to stories of Amazon’s work pace being so demanding that employees have to ‘urinate in water bottles.’
Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin at the U.S. Capitol on on September 20, 2019. Pocan received pushback from Amazon for repeating claims about workers at the company’s facilities having to pee in bottles to avoid repercussions from supervisors
‘You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you?’ Amazon News tweeted. ‘If that were true, nobody would work for us.’
A potential deflection scheme by Amazon appeared to work as media outlets and industry observers focused on a trillion-dollar company sparring online with powerful lawmakers rather than discussing the union vote.
Amazon’s pushback on Pocan’s comment about workers peeing in bottles also started another news cycle when The Intercept revealed internal Amazon communications acknowledging contractors delivering packages for the retail giant sometimes defecate in bags and urinate in bottles.
The ‘Amazon News’ Twitter account directly responds to comments by Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan about working conditions at the company’s facilities, including claims that workers are under so much pressure to perform they feel forced to pee in plastic bottles instead of taking bathroom breaks
Amazon’s response to Pocan and other legislators was part of an aggressive online campaign last week against the company’s critics
Amazon workers have said it is rare to hear of warehouse employees urinating in bottles, Recode reported.
But others say it is not uncommon for workers to take other measures, such as limiting how much they drink, to reduce bathroom trips for fear of missing production quotas or receiving supervisor write-ups for too much ‘time off task,’ in Amazon’s terminology.
A supporter holds a ‘Vote Union Yes!’ sign during a protest in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, Stop Asian Hate and the unionization of an Amazon fulfillment center in Birmingham, Alabama, on March 27
A ‘Vote’ sign hangs outside the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, on March 26
Sen. Bernie Sanders, right, and Rapper Michael ‘Killer Mike’ Render, left front, speak in support of the unionization of Amazon’s fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, on March 26
Within the company, some employees were perplexed by the Twitter assault.
A screenshot viewed by Recode of an internal support ticket, known internally as a trouble ticket, filed by an Amazon security engineer last week was titled, ‘Suspicious activity on @amazonnews Twitter account.’
‘Over the past two days, there have been two threads by @amazonnews in response to comments made by US Government officials that have received considerable attention,’ the ticket said. ‘The tweets in question do not match the usual content posted by this account.’
The security engineer noted the tweets were posted using Twitter’s web app rather than Sprinklr, the social media management software typically used by the Amazon News account.
The tweets, the engineer wrote, ‘are unnecessarily antagonistic (risking Amazon’s brand) and may be a result of unauthorized access.’
The support ticket was closed without action, a source told Recode.
Sanders joined the drive to unionize Amazon workers in Alabama with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) in Birmingham, as online clashes intensified between lawmakers and the e-commerce giant ahead of a deadline for a vote that could lead to the company’s first union on U.S. soil