Employee and shareholder activism is catching like wildfire in the tech industry, where fierce competition for talent makes workers especially influential. Workers and stock owners at Microsoft, Google, and other big tech companies are raising their voices over everything from sexual harassment to government contracts.
In many ways, Amazon shareholders are leading the revolution by agitating for a variety of changes at the Seattle e-commerce giant. This increased appetite for activism was evident Thursday in the number of shareholder resolutions in Amazon’s annual proxy statement.
There are 11 resolutions included in the statement, more than any other public corporation in 2019, according to The Seattle Times. They cover a range of issues, including climate change, Amazon’s controversial facial recognition technology, and equity issues.
Related: Jeff Bezos uses annual Amazon letter as antitrust antidote: ‘Third-party sellers are kicking our first party butt. Badly.’
The board will vote on the resolutions during Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting May 22. These resolutions are non-binding but they can shine a spotlight on specific topics and allow shareholders to raise issues with leadership.
Continue reading for highlights from the resolutions and read what Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had to say in response to increased political pressure on the company here.
Government tech ban: This proposal seeks to place a moratorium on sales of Amazon’s facial recognition software to government agencies unless the board conducts an evaluation using independent evidence and concludes the deals don’t violate civil rights. Hundreds of Amazon employees have petitioned the company to stop selling its Rekognition software to law enforcement, claiming it “may ultimately violate civil rights by unfairly and disproportionally targeting and surveilling people of color, immigrants and civil society organizations,” according to the resolution.
Climate change: Thousands of Amazon employees are backing a shareholder resolution seeking a comprehensive plan to address climate change within the company. The resolution asks Amazon to commit to radically reducing its carbon footprint.
Related: Jeff Bezos challenges retail giants to match (or beat!) Amazon’s $15/hour minimum wage and benefits
Gender pay gap: Shareholders are asking Amazon to regularly report on the company’s global median gender pay gap. The goal is to improve transparency into gender equity at Amazon and inform strategy decisions for recruiting and retaining women.
Hate speech: Shareholders want regular reports on Amazon’s efforts to address products promoting hate speech in the company’s marketplace. Third-party researchers have repeatedly identified products with racist symbolism for sale on Amazon.com.
Amazon’s response: In the proxy statement, Amazon claims that “some of these proposals contain assertions that we believe are incorrect.” The document recommends the board vote down many of the proposals but notes that, “in some cases, we already support some of the initiatives or concerns addressed in such proposals, and may already have taken actions that we believe address the underlying concerns of a proposal, but we may disagree with how the proposal seeks to prescribe the manner in which we address the issue.”
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