Amazon Investors Block 15 Proposals Supporting Social Issues
Amazon CEO Andy Jassy’s first shareholder meeting was a resounding success for Amazon management and Jassy’s bank account. But for activist investors eager to make Amazon more open and transparent, it was nothing short of a disaster.
Although the actual results of the vote have yet to be released, Amazon General Counsel David Zapolsky told Reuters that stock owners rejected fifteen shareholder resolutions dealing with matters such as the occupational safety, work organization, sustainability and pay equity. Amazon’s board of directors recommended voting no on all proposals.
Jassy and the board won additional victories in the form of shareholder approval for board nominations, executive compensation and a 20-to-1 stock split. executives of Jassy, which is pegged to Amazon’s stock price and primarily awarded in equity over a multi-year period, was $212 million in 2021.
Amazon said in its proxy statement ahead of the meeting that its executive compensation has been incredibly effective, although some shareholders recently said they believe the pay scale is unfair and disproportionate to Amazon’s average salary. . Warehouse workers typically earn around $15 an hour, for example.
Activist shareholders defeated
Amazon has faced a lot of criticism in recent years for the way it treats its employees, as well as its poor environmental record. Stories of Amazon workers are part of the cultural zeitgeist: Drivers relieving themselves in bottles and warehouse workers trapped in a tornado have all made headlines.
Momentum was towards hourly workers, activist shareholders and organizers at Amazon recently, with their victory in forming a warehouse union in New York after officials forced a second vote due to the interference from Amazon.
It didn’t take long for that momentum to crumble, and only weeks later a second New York Amazon warehouse voted not to form a union. The defeat of all activist shareholder proposals is unlikely to help.
The proposals all varied in purpose, but most took the same form: reports. The shareholders presenting them wanted investigations in areas where they believe Amazon has been less than honest or open.
The shareholder proposals requested reports on:
- If Amazon’s Retirement Plans Invested in Sustainable Businesses
- Whether AWS exercises due diligence to find out whether cloud customers are using its services in a way that contributes to human rights abuses
- Specific uses of Amazon technologies by government agencies that violate privacy and civil rights
- How to Change the Appointment Process for Directors to Require the Inclusion of Hourly Workers
- The sustainability of Amazon packaging
- Disparities in worker health and safety between company employees and hourly employees
- General conditions of work in the warehouse
- Whether Amazon’s use of concealment clauses “in the context of harassment, discrimination, and unlawful acts” created a risk for shareholders
- Whether Amazon’s charitable donations align with shareholder interests
- Alternative forms of tax reporting
- If freedom of association has been violated
- Where does Amazon’s lobbying money go?
- A diversity and equity audit
- Gender and racial wage gaps
Additionally, shareholders proposed adding more nominees than there are board seats to the ballots, which was also rejected.
Amazon responded to most submissions with a refrain of “we already disclose this” or “we already do”. Among proposals to shed light on the treatment of employees at its facilities, Amazon said it has significantly reduced accident rates and is committed to health and safety at its facilities.
I have too much money, thinks Jeff Bezos. Hmmm, pay more taxes? Pay more staff? Nah, let’s just go to space
This claim contrasts with data reported by OSHA in 2021, which found Amazon warehouse workers were injured nearly twice as often as those working in similar facilities. To back up its claim that worker safety is improving, Amazon shared its lost-time incident rate, which is comparatively low. Amazon didn’t say whether that stat included office workers, whose number of injuries would cause the average to drop significantly.
In response to environmental reporting proposals, Amazon claimed it was a leader there as well. In 2021, Amazon reported that its carbon emissions had increased by 19%, but its carbon expenditure per dollar of profit was lower, making the company greener despite the increase in its total emissions. ®