Amazon isn’t amused by HBO’s “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” most recent episode, which included a takedown of the ecommerce giant’s warehouses.
Oliver, in the show’s June 30 broadcast, broadly decried the low pay and grueling conditions of warehouse workers, and specifically called out “brutal” and “physically draining” working conditions at Amazon’s fulfillment centers — including citing workers who were denied bathroom breaks. “The more you look at Amazon, the more you realize its convenience comes with a real cost,” Oliver said in the program.
The English comedian/commenter accused Amazon of “creating a system that squeezes the people lowest on the ladder hard, and all the while the man behind Amazon” — founder and CEO Jeff Bezos — “is now worth $118 billion, more than anyone else in the world.”
Oliver did give Amazon some credit even as he singled out the mega-company. “Look, Amazon is not the worst actor in this industry. They generally don’t subcontract out their warehouses, and they made headlines last year for raising workers’ base pay to $15 an hour,” he said. “But being not the worst is a low, low bar. And they have huge influence here.”
In response to Oliver’s report, Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior VP of operations, posted on Twitter that the “Last Week Tonight” host was wrong — and called Oliver’s characterization of the company’s business practices “insulting.”
“As a fan of the show, I enjoy watching John make an entertaining case for the failings of companies, governments and most recently – Mount Everest,” Clark wrote in a tweet Monday. “But he is wrong on Amazon.”
According to Clark, Oliver and “Last Week Tonight” producers declined Amazon’s invitation to tour one of its facilities. “If they had they would have met the amazing people who work in our operations,” Clark wrote. “I am proud of our team and to suggest they would work in an environment like the one portrayed is insulting.”
While Clark took umbrage with Oliver’s overall portrait of Amazon as a company that treats its workers unfairly, the exec did not dispute any of the facts Oliver presented. The HBO host cited a report that seven pregnant workers had sued Amazon over the last several years after they were fired. The ex-employees alleged the company didn’t accommodate their needs, including requests for longer bathroom breaks. In response, Amazon said it has accommodated “thousands” of pregnant workers and that all employees are allowed to use the bathroom whenever needed.
The “Last Week Tonight” segment on Amazon and warehouse workers is available on YouTube at this link.
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