Amazon founder Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosFree speech, Whole Foods, and the endangered apolitical workplace Space: One important thing that might retain bipartisan focus Virtual realities may solve Fermi's paradox about extraterrestrials MORE said the company should “do a better job” for its workers after a high-profile unionization vote at a warehouse in Alabama cast a light on employee complaints with the tech giant.
While the vote failed, handing Amazon a major victory, Bezos wrote in a letter to shareholders that he took no “comfort” in the results.
“I think we need to do a better job for our employees. While the voting results were lopsided and our direct relationship with employees is strong, it’s clear to me that we need a better vision for how we create value for employees — a vision for their success,” he wrote.
Bezos brushed back at critics’ claims regarding workplace conditions, saying that 94 percent of workers said they would recommend Amazon as a place to work to their friends and maintaining that breaks to go to the restroom or speak with a manager wouldn’t impact their “performance.”
The Amazon founder also said the company will invest more than $300 million into safety projects in 2021.
“We are going to be Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work,” said Bezos, who is stepping down as Amazon’s chief executive officer later this year to take on the role of executive chairman.
The letter comes six days after workers at Amazon’s Bessemer, Ala., warehouse overwhelmingly voted against unionization by a 1,798-738 margin. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union plans to challenge the results.
The debate over unionization at the plant was sparked in October, shortly after the warehouse’s opening, with employees complaining about intense work quotas, low wages and Amazon’s handling of employee safety to protect workers from contracting the coronavirus.
Amazon has consistently swatted away allegations of unsafe work conditions and poor wages.
“If you read some of the news reports, you might think we have no care for employees,” Bezos wrote Thursday. “In those reports, our employees are sometimes accused of being desperate souls and treated as robots. That’s not accurate.”
However, the company is still staring down the prospect that the Bessemer unionization push could spread to other warehouses across the country.
“As we wait on the results of the Amazon union election; victory has already been won!” Jennifer Bates, a worker organizer at the plant who testified before Congress in March, said during the vote. “The bell has already been rung.”