Amazon Investors Push for Racial Audit, Worker on Board

Date: 2020-12-18 19:46:58


An Inc. institutional investor is pushing the world’s largest online retailer to conduct an audit on racism and diversity. Three other shareholders want Amazon to name a worker to its board.

The New York State Common Retirement Fund filed a shareholder resolution calling on the company to assess its impact on civil rights, racial equity, diversity and inclusion. The retirement fund suggested that Amazon solicit input from employees and civil-rights groups for the report and post it on the company website.

America’s second-largest employer has been criticized for its treatment of workers as the wealth of Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos has surged. The New York retirement fund cited alleged discrimination of the company’s Black and Latinx workers, their low wages and exposure to dangerous working conditions, including Covid-19, as well as the air pollution from distribution facilities located in minority neighborhoods.

“Amazon has said it stands with the nationwide movement to identify and bring an end to systemic racism, yet it continues to face claims of racial discrimination,” said Thomas P. DiNapoli, New York State Comptroller and trustee of the New York fund, which has $226 billion of assets. The company can benefit by studying these issues and developing a plan to address them, as well as ensuring that its policies and actions truly align with its words, he said.

Amazon is committed to creating “good jobs” and “the safety and health of its employees,” the company said in a statement. Among other initiatives, “we actively recruit people from diverse backgrounds to build a supportive and inclusive workplace,” it said.

Ten resolutions were filed Thursday by investors, including foundations and socially responsible money managers, for next year’s proxy season. The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, which has 300 members managing more than $2 trillion, organized the shareholders. Every year, Amazon investors propose a range of resolutions, many of which are voted down.

Oxfam America and the state treasurer’s offices of Vermont and Rhode Island urged Amazon to put an hourly worker on its board. They said Amazon lacks representation from such employees who thoroughly understand the company’s daily operations.

“Amazon has developed a reputation for running workers ragged, leaving hourly associates — disproportionately people of color — overworked and underpaid,” said Sarah Zoen, senior policy adviser at Oxfam America’s private-sector department.

Other resolutions included requests for reports on the company’s efforts to combat hate speech, the use of plastic packaging and the potential misuse of Amazon’s facial- recognition technology. One called for a policy that the board chair position be reserved for someone who hasn’t previously served as an executive officer at the company. Another called for Amazon to disclose its lobbying policies.

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