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As Bezos seeks to be the ‘Earth’s best employer,’ Amazon struggles with calls from shareholders to prove its progress.


Amazon.com Inc., which has advertised its commitment to citizenship for the past year and signed a statement this week to speak out against voter restrictions, is opposing all resolutions on Human and civil rights were brought to shareholders this year when it departed. CEO seeks to become “the best employer on Earth.”

Among the Amazon recommendations
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are recommending shareholders to vote against are the racial and gender pay statements; who gets promoted; how customers use its technology; and the tech giant’s lobbying activities. The Company said in its authorization that it generally objected to proposals for reporting requirements, policies or other initiatives “because they did not take into account the actions we were taking or reported to solve such problems. ”

After George Floyd was killed while in Minnesota police custody last year and racial-justice protests spread that followed, Amazon was among many companies to declare “Black Lives Matter”, including posting this phrase on my homepage. However, the company, like others, this year said that what it did in response to an attempt to keep it transparent and accountable was unnecessary.

See: Companies declared ‘Black Life Problems’ last year, and now they’re being asked to prove it.

In the event of a resolution seeking an independent audit of the company’s impact on civil rights, equity, diversity, and inclusion, Amazon has requested the Securities and Exchange Commission for allow the company to block it from its proxy. The SEC won’t, so shareholders will have a chance to vote for it.

“An independent audit of how Amazon deals with racial injustice in the workplace, on the wages they pay and the products they sell, will help ensure the company is dealing with discontent. Equality is institutionalized and influences its business, ”said Thomas DiNapoli, who filed a resolution on behalf of the New York State General Pension Fund, in a statement following the determination. SEC’s decision.

In its mandate, Amazon advertises the donations it has made to racial equity organizations and an effort to diversify its workforce, including “doubling the number of directors and Black vice president in 2020 and again in 2021 through effective executive development and recruitment programs ”.

In addition, an Amazon spokesperson noted that the SEC agreed with the company on the exclusion of a separate resolution calling for a diversified candidate search policy. The company has argued, among other things, that such a policy is not necessary because it already has diverse policies and initiatives in place.

Amazon is also noted for its relationships with employees. In his annual shareholder letter, CEO Jeff Bezos stated that the company would focus on “vision [employee] success ”after Amazon halted its efforts to consolidate employees at a warehouse in Alabama.

See: Bezos’ swan song letter swears an ‘obsession’ with employee welfare

However, Amazon is opposing a shareholder resolution calling for a policy to review alternative board candidates, including employee representatives.

“Amazon has been openly outraged for mistreating its workers – including criticism of dehumanizing working conditions, anti-regime activities and substantial stress on taxpayers by forcing their employees rely on food stamps, ”the resolution adds that worker representatives on the board can help solve problems directly.

In a statement opposing this solution, Amazon said there are “multiple channels” through which companies and boards interact with employees and address their concerns, including Connectivity, feedback platforms. employee surveys, plus employee surveys and open door policy.

On how their products are used, Amazon shareholders will vote on two resolutions addressing possible abuse of surveillance, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

“Amazon’s cloud and surveillance products can exacerbate systemic inequalities, affect surveillance and contribute to mass surveillance,” a resolution required reporting on said customer appraisal. The resolution covers Amazon’s work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Ring’s police partnership and the sale of Rekognition, the company’s facial recognition technology, to the police.

Another resolution specifically required a report on Rekognition and wrote in part: “Human rights and civil rights organizations are concerned that facial surveillance technology could violate citizenship by targeting and surveying. unfair and disproportionate killing of people of color, immigrants and civil society organizations. “

See: Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan urged shareholders to vote against racist audits

In recent years, the US Civil Liberties Union has published studies showing that Rekognition does not accurately identify US lawmakers.

Responding to both proposals, Amazon disagrees with the Rekognition feature and added that it was in favor of adjusting facial recognition.

“Amazon Rekognition is an image analysis service that can analyze objects, people, text, scenes, and activities in images and videos,” the company said. “Contrary to the proponent’s misconception, it is not a surveillance system.”

The company also noted that it implemented a one-year ban on police use of Rekognition, and it denied potential customers who violated its policies to use acceptable technology. .

Michael Connor, chief executive of Open MIC (Information and Communication Companies Initiative), a nonprofit that works on socially responsible investment and shareholder engagement and helping shareholders develop the resolutions, saying that in spite of Amazon’s commitment to civil liberties, “dozens of national and local civil rights groups have explicitly and consistently called for Ring, Rekognition. , Amazon’s oversight of warehouse employees and drivers, and other ongoing civil rights threats. “

Ultimately, Amazon is asking shareholders to vote against the proposal for a report of its lobbying activities, saying it complies with federal disclosure laws and other applicable laws.

The resolution seeks additional direct and indirect lobbying disclosures, as well as grassroots lobbying communications, and notes that disclosures at the state level are unclear or not. exist. Furthermore, it turns out that Amazon spending sometimes conflicts with its public positions.

One example: “CEO Jeff Bezos signed [Business Roundtable’s] The Statement of Purpose of a Group – committed to investing in employees – but Amazon has hired lobbyists on COVID-19 issues to fight workers opposing the lack of protection, ” Newground Social Investment writes in its proposal.

In response, Amazon demonstrated an internal COVID-19 test for its employees and advocated for frontline employees to vaccinate.

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