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Bezos acknowledges Amazon needs to do ‘a better job’ for employees after union vote

Amazon CEO offers his first thoughts on the high-profile union vote at the e-commerce giant’s warehouse in Bessemer, Ala.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, testifying remotely before the House Judiciary Committee in July, wrote in his annual shareholder letter that the company needs to “do a better job for our employees.” (Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post)
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SEATTLE — Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos acknowledged the e-commerce giant needs to “do a better job for our employees,” his first comments since the company’s lopsided victory over a unionization effort at an Alabama warehouse last week.

In his letter to shareholders, Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, wrote that some news reports of employee complaints about a brutal warehouse workplace during the union campaign were inaccurate. He cited internal surveys of warehouse staff that found 94 percent would recommend Amazon to a friend as a place to work.

But he also said Amazon needs to commit to improving employee satisfaction as much as the company focuses on providing customer care.

“Despite what we’ve accomplished, it’s clear to me that we need a better vision for our employees’ success,” Bezos wrote in the letter released Thursday morning.

Workers at Amazon warehouse in Alabama reject unionization, a major win for the e-commerce giant

Last Friday, Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Ala., overwhelmingly rejected unionization in a high-profile battle that drew vast political interest, including a video from President Biden supporting organizing efforts without mentioning Amazon by name. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union has said it intends to challenge the outcome, objecting to Amazon’s tactics during the campaign. That filing to the National Labor Relations Board could come by Friday.

Amazon aggressively battled the unionization effort that could have triggered organizing drives at other company facilities. The union said that more than 1,000 workers contacted it during the effort to learn about starting campaigns at their warehouses.

Even though the union lost the election, the organizing drive spotlighted Amazon’s shortcomings as an employer, RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement.

“Bezos’s admission today demonstrates that what we have been saying about workplace conditions is correct,” he said. “But his admission won’t change anything, workers need a union — not just another Amazon public relations effort in damage control.”

Amazon’s anti-union blitz stalks Alabama warehouse workers everywhere, even the bathroom

During the union drive, workers spoke out about aggressive performance goals, low wages and an overheated workplace. Amazon pushed back aggressively against critics on Twitter, at one point combatively deriding Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) for suggesting workers routinely urinate in bottles because they can’t take restroom breaks. The company apologized to Pocan a few days later, acknowledging that drivers, including those who deliver packages for other companies, often have trouble finding restrooms.

When Bezos relinquishes the CEO job this summer to become Amazon’s executive chair, he wrote that he intends to include making the company “Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work” in his initiatives. He wrote that the company plans to invest more than $300 million this year in safety projects, including $66 million to create technology that will help prevent collisions of forklifts and other types of industrial vehicles.