Amazon is sending employees into the trenches on Twitter as it battles its first union vote and reports about workers peeing in bottles

amazon warehouse
  • Amazon’s paid army of employee Twitter users is at it again, this time criticizing unionization.
  • The employee accounts follow a standard format, and popped up previously amid negative press coverage.
  • A major union drive and reports of delivery drivers peeing in bottles are the primary target.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

As new reports surface of Amazon warehouse and delivery staff still having to pee in bottlesor, in some cases, defecate in bags – the company’s employee-powered Twitter army has resurfaced.

“So glad to be on Twitter! Feel free to ask my anything about my experiences as a member of the Amazon family, I’m an open book!” an account tied to an employee named Darla tweeted last week. The account, like several others reviewed by Insider, was started in March 2021.

Back in 2018, Amazon admitted to paying a small army of employees to tweet positive things about the company.

The move was in response to the first revelations that some Amazon warehouse and delivery staff were peeing in bottles to save time due to the demands of their job. The employees paid by Amazon were easy to identify, as they all shared the same “Amazon FC” naming convention on their profiles (FC for “fulfillment center,” the name of Amazon’s shipping warehouses).

After Darla’s cheerful intro written in late March, the second tweet on the account reflects the grim reality of being an Amazon FC ambassador. “One thing that’s become obvious to me in my short time on Twitter is how willing people are to shout down and be cruel to a fellow member of the working class who disagrees with them, even when they think that person is ‘brainwashed.’ The cruelty I’ve had directed at me!!!” she tweeted.

Darla’s only other tweets reflect her anti-union position – a tweet that was published the same day that employees of an Amazon fulfillment center were scheduled to vote on the company’s first major union.

“What bothers me most about unions is there’s no ability to opt out of dues!” she said on Monday. “As a single mother with two boys I’m barely scraping by as it is, and now unions want to come to Amazon and make pay them a piece of my salary. No thanks!”

Several other Amazon FC ambassadors kept their main tweets to a minimum, choosing instead to reply to ongoing Twitter threads about working at the company. The majority of those responses are specifically regarding bathroom breaks, per the reports of employees peeing in bottles.

Amazon driver thumb pee bottle
An Amazon driver shared this photo with Insider of a bottle of pee inside a delivery van.

“My [fulfillment center] lets me to take (2) 20min breaks and (1) 30min lunch. On overtime days, we get three 20min breaks, which is also pretty nice as well,” one such response from an employee identified at Gary reads. “Before the pandemic, our breaks used to be only 15min. Being an essential worker is dignifying for me.”

Another such response to a thread, from an employee named Yola, also addresses the repeated reports of employees peeing in bottles to save work time.

“Although the facility is big, there are numerous bathrooms to use,” she wrote on March 28. “My building has 12. Each bathroom can have 3-6 toilets. That’ plenty. Plus with 20-30 [minute] breaks that’s more than enough time.”

Like Gary and Darla, Yola’s account was also started in March 2021 and didn’t become active until late in the month – just as Amazon began publicly pushing back on unionization at its Bessemer, Alabama fulfillment center and reports of workers peeing in bottles resurfaced once again.

A Twitter account run by the company, Amazon News, recently got into public arguments with several politicians. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, as well as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Mark Pocan, have all gotten into public spats with the account.

The tone of the account became combative enough that an Amazon engineer reportedly flagged the tweets as potentially suspicious behavior.

And Amazon consumer chief Dave Clark also got involved in those public spats, even going after Sen. Sanders’ record directly. “I often say we are the Bernie Sanders of employers,” he said, “but that’s not quite right because we actually deliver a progressive workplace for our constituents: a $15 minimum wage, health care from day one, career progression, and a safe and inclusive work environment.”

According to a report from Vox, Amazon cofounder and CEO Jeff Bezos specifically directed executives to push back harder on critics of the company. Amazon representatives did not respond to a request for comment as of publishing.

Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@insider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

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5 ways remote work is changing the economy for the better

remote work
Remote work has been good in many ways.

Now that vaccines and a massive stimulus package are here, the US economy is uniquely positioned for a great new era in the 2020s.

A major factor underlying the great economic potential of reopening lies with how the pandemic ushered in an era of remote work, which is likely here to stay to some extent in a post-pandemic world.

More than two-thirds of professionals were working remotely during the peak of the pandemic, according to a new report by work marketplace Upwork, and over the next five years, 20% to 25% of professionals will likely be working remotely.

Remote working has caused employees to rethink and better accommodate their priorities in life and employers to rethink operations regarding how they can best work with professionals and create teams, the report stated. But it also hasn’t been without some downsides, such as blurring the lines between work-life balance and causing increased stress.

Overall, though, Upwork found the shift to remote work in the past year has ultimately benefited the economy in five key ways.

(1) Remote workers are more productive

Remote and and online collaboration technology are proving to be helpful with hidden benefits like making teams work better together, reported Douglas Quenqua for Insider. Higher meeting attendance rates, more attentive managers, simplified communication, and more breaks are just a few of the positive changes.

It’s made many more productive. Sixty-one percent of workers said their productivity increased from working remotely, according to an Upwork survey. And an Upwork survey of hiring managers found 32.2% of them said they saw overall productivity rise as of late April, compared to 22.5% that felt it decreased.

These productive effects will only further develop as people adapt more to remote work, new technology is invented, and people will start remote businesses, wrote the report’s author, Adam Ozimek.

(2) Remote work has freed up relocation opportunities

Remote work will redistribute opportunity across the US, Ozimek wrote. Upwork estimated that up to 23 million people plan to relocate.

Richard Florida, urban studies theorist and economics professor at the University of Toronto, has a similar mindset. He previously told Insider remote work will accelerate the movement of families out of superstar cities into suburbs and the 1% who are seeking lower taxes.

“I have long said that we will see the rise of the rest, given the incredible expensiveness and affordability of existing superstar cities,” he said. “But it’s not going to be the rise of everywhere. It’s going to be the rise of a dozen or two dozen places.” These places will consequently attract new talent, changing economic development.

Florida predicted that bigger cities will see a resurgence, though, as the US inches closer to widespread vaccination, reshaped by a newfound focus on interpersonal interaction that facilitates creativity and spontaneity.

(3) Employers are hiring more independent talent

Employers have become more inclined to build hybrid teams made up of both full-time employees and freelance workers, Ozimek wrote. A November Upwork survey that asked about plans for hiring freelancers in the next six months found that 36% of hiring managers plan to hire out more independent talent.

Fortune 1000 companies in particular have been tapping into more diverse talent regardless of matter location, found a recent report by Business Talent Group, a marketplace for independent consultants. Independent talent has especially increased in the C-Suite. There has been a 67% increase over the past year in executives seeking independent talent needs, per the report.

This increases the talent pool and opportunities for workers.

(4) Remote workers are saving time and money

Without daily commutes, workers have more hours and bigger bank accounts.

One year of working remotely has saved people on average nine days from commuting, per Upwork’s research. And car commuters saved around $4,350, including costs to public from their driving.

The time and money saved could boost economic growth and productivity, Robert Gordon, economics professor at Northwestern University, said in a recent UCLA Anderson Forecast interview. The labor force has restructured, with high-paid people working from home and making the same income, he said.

“This shift to remote working has got to improve productivity because we’re getting the same amount of output without commuting, without office buildings, and without all the goods and services associated with that,” Gordon said. “We can produce output at home and transmit it to the rest of the economy electronically.”

(5) Pandemic remote work is different from remote work

“Remote work and remote work during a global pandemic are not the same,” Ozimek wrote.

Many of the struggles with remote work were due to pandemic circumstances – like balancing remote work with child care while schools were closed. In a post-pandemic world, these things won’t be a hindrance and remote employees will be able to revel in fewer interruptions, which Upwork found to be one of the most cited benefits of remote work.

Remote work also won’t always be done from home. Florida thinks neighborhoods will reshape as offices.

“Even as offices decline, the community or the neighborhood or the city itself will take on more of the functions of an office,” he said. “People will gravitate to places where they can meet and interact with others outside of the home and outside of the office.”

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I’m a freelancer who could lose out on income, flexibility, and being the primary caregiver to my child if the PRO Act passes

Mary Kearl
Mary Kearl.

  • Mary Kearl is a professional freelance writer and marketing consultant.
  • As a freelancer, she enjoys being able to make more money, choose her own hours, and be an active caregiver to her toddler.
  • If the PRO Act in its current form passes in the Senate, Kearl says she could potentially most of her clients and income.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Professionally, I’ve never been happier since becoming a freelancer. Sure, there are the occasional stresses of chasing down payments and the ongoing uncertainty of not knowing exactly how much I’ll earn, but as someone who thrives when I’m learning and being challenged, the pros outweigh the cons.

For me and my husband, who is also a freelancer, the pros include earning more per hour than when we worked full time, setting our own schedules, sharing in being the primary caregivers to our toddler, deciding the companies we work with and projects we take on, and the flexibility to work from and live anywhere – even traveling through South America for six months.

As a freelancer, I earn about three times more per hour than when I had a full-time six-figure job.

I’m not alone. A new survey from the freelancing platform Upwork found that most freelancers (75%) earn the same as or more than what they took home from their former full-time jobs.

Freelancing has been life-changing for my family, but now all of that is potentially on the line for me and millions of other freelancers because of a new bill the House of Representatives just passed called the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021, or PRO Act for short.

Certain goals of the bill are concepts I support – like making updates to US labor laws to advance workers’ rights to organize and strengthen unions and aiming to prevent gig-economy companies like Uber and Lyft from designating workers such as drivers as independent contractors rather than full-time employees who would be eligible for benefits.

But there’s a fear that the PRO Act could potentially sideline the self-employed careers of individuals like me who do not want to be classified as employees and would prefer to retain our independence.

As other writers have spoken out about, the main issue for freelancers comes down to the inclusion of the ABC test within the bill, which states:

“An individual performing any service shall be considered an employee (except as provided in the previous sentence) and not an independent contractor, unless-

“(A) the individual is free from control and direction in connection with the performance of the service, both under the contract for the performance of service and in fact;

“(B) the service is performed outside the usual course of the business of the employer; and

“(C) the individual is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business of the same nature as that involved in the service performed.”.

Self-employed contractors may “fail” to qualify as independent for any one of these reasons. For the publications I write for, publishing articles will likely be considered part of the “usual course of business” for the company. The same goes for the social media strategy, copywriting, editing, and content marketing support I’ve provided to marketing agencies.

If the PRO Act passes in the Senate without any changes to its language and the ABC test becomes the standard used to classify employees, the fallout for my career and family could be considerable.

I know because I’ve already once had to make major life changes due to the ABC test.

Last year, a California law AB5 that adopted the ABC test and impacted hundreds of types of professionals into effect and threatened to bring my new career to an end. Ultimately AB5 factored into my decision to move out of the state to a small town in Maine where I wouldn’t be impacted.

Already three of the companies I’ve worked for in a marketing capacity have worked with me through third-party companies that set up contracts with me directly to absorb the risk of working with self-employed individuals like me. Contracting freelancers through third parties is something major companies may be able to do, but that’s not likely for smaller companies.

If enough of my clients can no longer work with me as a freelancer as a result of this new law, I’ll most likely have to get a full-time job, take a pay cut, work longer hours than my current 25 hours a week, lose my flexible schedule and autonomy, and miss out on being a primary caregiver to my child.

And, unless I can find something that’s remote, I’ll likely have to move again.

This time, I’d have to go to a major city where there are more openings for writers and marketers like me. That means a higher cost of living, and, unless one or both of us can find something truly flexible, we’ll either have to start paying for childcare (which costs about $9,000 a year in Los Angeles, for instance) or one of us will have to take a break from being part of the workforce, something more parents and, moms especially, have already had to do during the pandemic.

As I write this article at night as my child sleeps, I’ve just spent the morning at the beach with my family.I choose when I work and when I’m off the clock. Over the past two years, I’ve had the chance to work with over 30 different brands and publications, and during that time no single company I’ve worked with has made up more than about one-fourth of my income, let alone 100% of it.

I’m certainly not a misclassified employee. I’m happily self employed, and that’s how I hope things can stay.

I’m in favor of advancing workers’ rights, and hope the PRO Act can be updated to ensure freelancers who want to remain autonomous can do so.

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Big banks, including Deutsche Bank and Bank of America, are testing employees for COVID-19 before they step into the office. Insider took a closer look at their plans.

Arizona covid-19 testing coronavirus
Physician John Jones, D.O. tests administrative assistant Morgan Bassin for COVID-19 at One Medical in Scottsdale, Arizona.

  • As COVID-19 continues to spread, big banks worldwide are monitoring staff that come into the office.
  • Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, and BoA are all testing employees for COVID-19, sources told Insider.
  • JPMorgan and Wells Fargo said they require employees to complete a health check before they arrive.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Major banks worldwide have launched COVID-19 testing programs in order to enable a return to work for some employees during the pandemic.

Some banks are offering their staff lab-based PCR tests, which are considered the most accurate way of detecting coronavirus, but they can cost around $100 to process, per The New York Times. Results of PCR tests usually come back within a couple of days.

Other banks are providing antigen tests, also known as lateral flow tests, which give results in about 15 to 30 minutes. Both antigen and PCR tests require swabbing the nose or throat.

“I have been back at work since the start of the year and have been asked to produce three negative test results every week,” a source who works in a bank in London told Insider on the condition of anonymity. “It’s a bit stressful but the antigen tests are quick and I have got into a nice routine now. It’s also nice to be able to go back to work, although I miss the pre-COVID office environment,” they said.

However, a number of other banks are asking employees to fill out questionnaires about possible symptoms and exposure to the virus before they come into the workplace.

Insider spoke with sources working in banks across the world to get a sense of return-to-work plans. 

Deutsche Bank

Twice a week, Deutsche Bank is testing UK employees considered key workers that work on the busiest floors in the office, sources familiar with the system said. They are being tested with PCR tests. It’s unclear whether staff working on other floors are being also tested.

Deutsche Bank declined to comment to Insider.

Bank of America

Bank of America is testing employees on a weekly basis if they’re coming into the office, according to sources familiar with the matter. The testing is currently targeted at UK offices, and there are plans to roll out the tests to the rest of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa region. 

Bank of America declined to comment.

Read more: Bank of America has promoted 86 managing directors in its sales and trading, research, and operations groups – here are all the names

JPMorgan

JPMorgan told Insider that employees coming into the workplace in all locations are required to take a daily health check before entering an office. The health check is a survey that can be completed via mobile or laptop, and asks if you’ve been exposed or in close contact with someone who is infected with COVID-19 or showing related symptoms.

The bank said the daily health checks had been in place since the pandemic began in March.

On top of this, JPMorgan is also sending at-home testing kits to staff, if they want one. Employees are also able to book a PCR COVID-19 test at one of the bank’s on-site health and wellness centers.

Wells Fargo

A Wells Fargo spokesperson confirmed to Insider that all workers who go into the bank are required to complete a self-screening assessment, which involves filling out a questionnaire about whether they have symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19. They must complete this every day before entering the workplace, the spokesperson said.

In its largest US locations, the bank has an on-site nurse to check staff for COVID-19 symptoms and refer them for testing.

Credit Suisse

Sources familiar with the situation at Swiss bank Credit Suisse said it is offering its staff in London weekly testing, despite only a small number of them coming into the workplace. Credit Suisse declined to comment.

Citibank and Barclays could not be reached for comment. HSBC didn’t respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Are you an employee in the banking sector being tested for COVID-19 on a daily basis? Get in touch with this reporter via email: kduffy@insider.com.

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Yes, your boss can require you to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Labor lawyers weigh in on what rights employees have.

covid vaccine trial
Lisa Taylor receives a COVID-19 vaccination from RN Jose Muniz with the help of Karenda Palmer, a staff member, as she takes part in a vaccine study at Research Centers of America on August 07, 2020 in Hollywood, Florida.

  • The EEOC says employers can require employees get a COVID-19 vaccine or ban them from the office.
  • One lawyer predicts that most employers will strongly suggest, not require, vaccination.
  • There are still unanswered questions about what else employers can require of workers when it comes to workplace safety.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Employers can legally require employees get a COVID-19 vaccine or ban them from the office, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said in a recent guidance.

As the first doses of coronavirus vaccines are given to healthcare workers and other high risk groups, many employees around the country officially have an answer to the question: Can my boss legally require that I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna have each said that their vaccine is about 95% effective. American healthcare workers received the first COVID-19 vaccines on Monday, soon after Pfizer became the first candidate to receive emergency authorization in the US from the Food and Drug Administration, shortly followed by Moderna’s vaccine.

Read more: Employers are flooding labor lawyers’ inboxes to ask if they can make a coronavirus vaccine mandatory in the workplace. Here’s the advice 6 lawyers are giving clients.

Business Insider spoke with six labor and employment lawyers about whether workplaces can make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for their employees.

Can bosses make a coronavirus vaccination mandatory at the workplace?

Workers likely first want to know what exactly their employers can require of them. In short, yes, employers can make vaccines mandatory, Jimmy Robinson, managing shareholder at the L&E firm Ogletree Deakins’s Richmond office, told Business Insider. He also mentioned that there would need to be religious and medical accommodations, with specific requirements varying by state and locale.

Karla Grossenbacher, chair of Seyfarth Shaw’s L&E practice in Washington, DC, said that employers would have to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA says that employers can require medical exams and vaccinations of employees under certain, specific conditions, like for healthcare workers, or if it poses a “direct threat” to the person if they are exempted, Grossenbacher said.

The EEOC, which enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination, has categorized COVID-19 as a direct threat. This designation allows employers to require temperature takes, masks, and social distancing.  The federal agency has clarified that employers can mandate vaccination for employees, saying  “If a vaccine is administered to an employee by an employer for protection against contracting COVID-19, the employer is not seeking information about an individual’s impairments or current health status and, therefore, it is not a medical examination.” Medical examinations, including COVID-19 antibody testing, are not limited by the EEOC.

There are still many questions lawyers don’t yet know how to answer. 

With a limited number of vaccines available, the general public will not be able to get the shots for months. In the meantime, workers have other questions about what employers can ask of them.

Nathaniel Glasser, a partner at Epstein Becker Green, said his clients are asking if they can restrict employees from attending large gatherings, or if employees can be required to come into work if they feel it is unsafe. Thomas Wassel, a partner at the law firm Cullen and Dykman on Long Island, said that in many cases employees do have to come to work, but it depends on specific circumstances.

The Biden administration may also release more guidance or legislation on workplace safety, which could answer some of these questions. Each question also depends on the specifics of the vaccine and the employee’s particular job, so many questions are impossible to answer this early.

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