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As Union Drive Heated Up, Jeff Bezos Orchestrated Twitter War on Bernie Sanders

Last week, Amazon turned a few tweets into a PR mess. Those tweets, it turns out, were on order from Jeff Bezos himself.

Jeff Bezos speaks at an event hosted by the Air Force Association on September 19, 2018, in National Harbor, Maryland.

Last week, the official Amazon News Twitter account fired off several tweets criticizing Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), and it turns out those tweets were on order from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos himself.

Reporting from Recode has found that the Amazon co-founder complained in the past few weeks that the company wasn’t aggressive enough toward its critics.

The tweets were so off-brand, Recode found, that an Amazon security engineer wrote an internal support ticket noting that the Amazon News account’s tweets were “suspicious.”

“Over the past two days, there have been two threads by @amazonnews in response to comments made by US Government officials that have received considerable attention,” the ticket said, according to Recode. “The tweets in question do not match the usual content posted by this account.”

The posts came during the last week of the month-long historic union vote in Bessemer, Alabama, where about 5,800 Amazon warehouse workers are voting on whether to form a union. The company has fought tooth and nail against the union drive, spending millions of dollars on anti-union consultants. The vote ends on Monday, and the National Labor Relations Board will begin tallying votes on Tuesday.

Though many of the efforts against the unionization effort were less public, the social media posts were likely yet another anti-unionization strategy and an effort to save the company’s social license. But the tweets actually ended up being somewhat of a public relations disaster as the company tweeted claims that were easily debunked.

The most notorious tweet was posted in response to Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin). After Amazon executive Dave Clark bizarrely criticized Sanders and called the company a “progressive workplace,” Pocan criticized the statement, saying, “Paying workers $15/hr doesn’t make you a ‘progressive workplace’ when you union-bust & make workers urinate in water bottles.”

The Amazon News account tweeted back at Pocan, apparently under orders from Bezos: “You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you?” The tweet inspired an enormous amount of backlash and inspired The Intercept to dig up internal documents showing that the company does indeed know that its drivers must urinate in bottles to keep up with its quotas.

The company’s attempts at deception continued from there. The Amazon Public Policy account boasted about its $1.7 billion in federal tax expense in 2020 — but tax expense is vastly different from tax payable, and the company actually avoided more in taxes than it’s bragging about, to the tune of $2.3 billion.

Clark and Amazon continued piling onto Sanders through the rest of the week, questioning the minimum wage in Sanders’s home state while touting the company’s $15 minimum wage policy. Twitter users were quick to note, however, that as a federal senator, Sanders doesn’t control the minimum wage in his own state and has been at the forefront of the push for a federal $15 minimum wage. Pressure from Sanders was directly responsible for Amazon’s $15 minimum wage policy that they set in 2018 after the senator repeatedly criticized its bad labor practices.

The Amazon News account also tried firing back at criticism from Senator Warren, who pointed out that the companies use loopholes and tax havens to avoid paying federal taxes. In response, the company said, “You make the tax laws Senator Warren; we just follow them. If you don’t like the laws you’ve created, by all means, change them.” However, this tweet was in response to an announcement of a bill she introduced to close these loopholes.

The company also boasted about the $18 billion that they’ve “generated” in the form of local and state sales taxes — but none of that money comes from the company. The money they’re bragging about comes out of the customers’ pockets only when they place an order.

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