- Amazon trained warehouse employees to defend it against criticism, The Intercept reported Tuesday.
- The program, "Veritas," drew attention as workers responded to criticism about workplace conditions.
- Amazon's public messaging has drawn pushback amid a landmark effort by its workers to unionize.
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Amazon is facing a fresh round of scrutiny over the army of warehouse workers it enlisted to defend the company and CEO Jeff Bezos on Twitter against criticism of the company's grueling working conditions.
On Tuesday, The Intercept published leaked documents detailing the program, which Amazon launched in 2018 under the codename "Veritas," revealing how Amazon recruited and trained employees to "set the record straight - leaving no lie unchallenged and showing that people who actually know what it's like to work in our FCs love their jobs."
Amazon required the "ambassadors" to "have a strong performance background and clean HR record, be authentic, have a great sense of humor, and be excited about speaking their mind and rebutting our critics in a polite, blunt way," according to the internal documents obtained by The Intercept.
In a pilot test for Veritas, Amazon employees practiced pushing back against criticism that Bezos should be taxed higher, a post by Sen. Bernie Sanders interviewing a worker who said they experienced suicidal thoughts as a result of Amazon's working conditions, and even reporting by Insider about workers urinating in bottles because they feared punishment for being "off task."
"FC Ambassadors are employees who work in our fulfillment centers and choose to share their personal experience - the FC ambassador program helps show what it's actually like inside our fulfillment centers, along with the public tours we provide. We encourage anyone who wants to see for themselves to sign up for a tour at www.amazonfctours.com," Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski told Insider in a statement.
In September, Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Debbie Dingell, both Democrats from Michigan, said Amazon's security staff called the police when they tried to inspect one of its warehouses depite doing so at the company's request. Others who have toured Amazon facilities said the tours did little to allay their concerns about working conditions.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also criticized Amazon's tour strategy on Tuesday, accusing it of offering "well in advance, prescheduled tour[s]" where the company can set the terms, adding that "if you respond with a request for surprise access to a facility it's always a different story."
Amazon's Twitter army came back under the spotlight this week amid a landmark effort by warehouse employees in its Bessemer, Alabama, facility to unionize - the largest such effort in the company's history.
This week, dozens of Twitter accounts, portraying themselves as Amazon warehouse employees, began responding to new reports that warehouse and delivery staff still have to pee in bottles - or, in some cases, defecate in bags.
But Twitter shut down some of the accounts after Gizmodo reported that at least one was likely not a real person. (Amazon told The New York Times' Karen Weise that the account was fake and that it had reported the account to Twitter).
Amazon's top executives and public relations teams have also become increasingly confrontational on Twitter recently, sparring publicly with lawmakers including Sens. Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as well as Rep. Mark Pocan.
The tweets, which The Intercept reported were so antagonistic that Amazon's security team even though the company might have been hacked, were sparked because "Jeff Bezos was pissed," according to Recode.
In one instance, Amazon's official PR account replied to Rep. Pocan, saying "You don't really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us."
Amazon, which has been openly and aggressively anti-union, has deployed a range of union-busting tactics, from pushing company talking points during mandatory midnight "education" meetings to changing the timing of traffic lights near its facilities. The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, under which Amazon employees are seeking to organize, said the move was a ploy to stop its members from talking to workers stopped at red lights.
The company also reactivated its Twitter ambassadors to respond to a recent wave of criticism about the "pee bottles" and other complaints workers have raised about working conditions.