After union vote, Bezos vows to do better for Amazon workers

FILE - In this Sept. 19, 2019, file photo, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaks during his news conference at the National Press Club in Washington.  After a union battle at an Alabama warehouse,  Bezos vowed Thursday, April 15, 2021 to focus on making Amazon a better and safer place to work.  (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 19, 2019, file photo, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaks during his news conference at the National Press Club in Washington. After a union battle at an Alabama warehouse, Bezos vowed Thursday, April 15, 2021 to focus on making Amazon a better and safer place to work. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

NEW YORK – After a union battle at an Alabama warehouse, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos acknowledged that Amazon has to do better for its workers and vowed to make Amazon a safer place to work.

Bezos made the promise Thursday in his annual letter to shareholders. He said he didn't take comfort in the outcome of the recent union election in Bessemer, Alabama, even though workers there overwhelmingly rejected a union.

“I think we need to do a better job for our employees,” said Bezos, who will be stepping down as CEO later this year and will become executive chair of the online shopping giant.

Amazon's treatment of workers has been in the spotlight during the pandemic. While coronavirus was raging, warehouse workers had to pack orders as Amazon sales soared.

The New York attorney general is suing Amazon for not doing enough to protect workers against the virus at two facilities in the city. And earlier this month, the company vowed to improve working conditions after acknowledging that some delivery drivers might have had to urinate in bottles to deliver packages on time, an allegation the company previously denied.

The letter from Bezos comes a week after workers in Alabama voted against forming a union, cutting off a path that labor activists had hoped would lead to similar efforts throughout the company.

Workers who were seeking a union said they spent 10-hour days on their feet packing packages and unloading boxes, with only two 30-minute breaks and not enough time to eat lunch, go to the bathroom or recover from the back-breaking work.

Bezos disputed the portrayal of Amazon workers and how they are treated.