Amazon foundersaid the company needs to "do a better job" for its employees and vowed to make the e-commerce giant the world's best employer in his new role as Executive Chairman.
Bezos, who is set to step down as CEO later this year, wrote in his final letter to shareholders that in addition to being a customer-centric company, Amazon will commit to being "Earth's Best Employer and Earth's Safest Place to Work."
"Despite what we've accomplished, it's clear to me that we need a better vision for our employees' success," Bezos wrote.
The letter comes days after Amazon beat back a historic unionization effort by workers at one of its warehouses in Bessemer, Alabama. Only 30% voted in favor of forming a collective bargaining unit but the union accused Amazon of intimidating workers to not support the effort.
Bezos said he isn't comforted by the outcome of the recent union vote in Bessemer.
"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," Bezos said.
During the unionization effort, some Amazon workers at the Bessemer facility said they're being treated like "prisoners" and worry about their job security, safety, and wellbeing. Employees at the warehouse also raised concerns about lack of time for bathroom and lunch breaks, inadequate benefits, and grueling work hours.
Bezos said reports that Amazon doesn't care for employees at warehouses and treats them like robots "are not accurate."
The Retail, Warehouse, and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which represents more than 15 million workers and was is helping organize Amazon employees in Bessemer, said the unionization effort has been "devastating" for Amazon's reputation.
Stuart Applebaum, president of RWDSU, said Bezos is admitting that the company has mistreated workers.
"Bezos's admission today demonstrates that what we have been saying about workplace conditions is correct. But his admission won't change anything, workers need a union – not just another Amazon public relations effort in damage control," Applebaum said in a statement.
In the letter, Bezos said he will focus on "new initiatives" that will include diving deeper into safety issues at Amazon warehouses. He said roughly 40% of work-related injuries are due to sprains and strains caused by repetitive motions.
Bezos said the company is developing new automated staffing schedules that will use computer algorithms to rotate employees among jobs and reduce injury risks. He also addressed potential concerns that shareholders might have with the company's added focus on employee success and safety.
"If we can operate two businesses as different as consumer ecommerce and [Amazon Web Services], and do both at the highest level, we can certainly do the same with these two vision statements," Bezos said. "In fact, I'm confident they will reinforce each other."