Amazon shareholders voted against a proposal calling on the e-commerce giant to conduct an independent audit of warehouse conditions, despite continuing concerns about high levels of injuries and staff turnover.
The proposal to audit the warehouse – which shareholders voted on at Amazon’s annual general meeting (AGM) on May 25 – was presented by the Tulipshare digital investment platform in December 2021.
Although Amazon claims to “provide a safe and positive workplace,” there are numerous reports of injuries in warehouses, unattainable performance targets, and unfair treatment of workers.
Tulipshare’s proposal states: “In 2020, it was reported that Amazon’s injury rate was more than twice that of Walmart’s warehouse workers and that Amazon’s rate of serious injury was almost 80% higher. high than the wider warehousing industry. He added that the high turnover of the company’s employees – about 150% a year before the pandemic – was almost twice as high as in the wider retail and logistics industries.
Amazon initially tried to exclude the proposal from its general meeting, with its lawyers writing to the US securities regulator SEC in January 2022 to demand its removal on the grounds that workplace safety issues were “a matter of ordinary business ”and therefore cannot be excluded.
SEC – which change your guidelines on 3 November 2021, so that shareholders’ proposals on “important social policy issues” can no longer be excluded in the “ordinary business” exception – rejected this request, noting for the first time that the issue of attitudes and workers’ safety was put to a vote at an Amazon general meeting.
It is currently unclear how specific shareholders voted, as information on the full result is not announced until four days after the vote. Both Tulipshare and Amazon confirmed that shareholders voted against the proposal based on preliminary results.
Computer Weekly contacted the Vanguard Group and BlackRock – Amazon’s major shareholders, which hold 6.6% and 5.4% of all open shares, respectively – but received a response only from Vanguard, which said it did not comment on its votes or the votes of their portfolio companies as a matter of company policy.
“Although we are disappointed that our proposal was not adopted today, this vote was just the beginning in the fight for workers’ rights,” said Antoine Arguz, CEO and founder of Tulipshare, which plans to resubmit its proposal in 2023.
“Amazon has not yet revealed the full result of the vote, but based on the positive talks we had with major shareholders this week, we have every reason to believe that our proposal has received strong support. Once the results are published, we will look at our ability to continue the fight for better working conditions at Amazon. “
Tulipshare’s chief marketing officer, Jenna Armitage, told Computer Weekly earlier that ongoing reports of poor working conditions at Amazon were bad for business.
“The problems have been going on for too long and it is our responsibility to monitor Amazon’s management as shareholders,” she said. “The work of Amazon’s warehouse workers pays dividends to shareholders, so we must ensure that our dividends do not come at the cost of compromising workers’ safety.”
Armitage added that the vote gave investors a chance to show that they were not complicit in Amazon’s treatment of warehouse workers.
Although shareholders rejected the audit of the warehouse and 14 additional resolutions related to workers ’rights, the company’s impact on the environment or other social issues, they approved proposals on executive compensation and a division of shares.
A number of large investment institutions, incl Schroeders, Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) have publicly stated their intention to vote in favor of the proposal before the general meeting. Computer Weekly contacted Schroders, Glass Lewis and ISS for comment, but received no response at the time of publication.
Computer Weekly also contacted Amazon about the outcome of the vote and how it plans to improve working conditions in the future. Computer Weekly was referred to Amazon proxy statement published before the general meeting: “Safety is an integral part of everything we do at Amazon, as evidenced by our continued focus on health and safety training, employee engagement and improving our processes to improve working conditions.
“We are transparent about our commitment and efforts to improve workplace safety, the discussion of our initiatives is detailed in our Delivered with care safety report and on our website. We spent more than $ 15 billion on Covid-19 to help our employees be safe and deliver to our customers.
“We have revealed the levels of accidents in our workforce, along with comparisons with different industries. Our percentage of lost time incidents was 2.3 worldwide and 2.6 in the United States in 2020, up 43% and 49%, respectively, from 2019. In addition, our reported incidence rate was 5.1 percent in the United States. worldwide and 6.5 in the US in 2020, an improvement of 24% and 25% respectively compared to 2019.
The trustee’s statement added that the board, which has “direct oversight of employee welfare and safety at work”, regularly reviews its safety measures.
Marcus Storm, spokesman for the United Tech and Allied Workers Union (UTAW), a branch of the Union of Communications Workers in the United Kingdom (CWU), set up to represent and fight for workers in every level of the technology sector, said: ” Amazon has big questions to answer about its attitude toward hard-working warehouse workers. Comparisons with companies like Walmart are extremely unfavorable for Amazon.
“The fact that both the problems of individual workers and the shareholders’ demands for independent audit are being ignored is a serious cause for concern for all Amazon stakeholders. If a company with Amazon resources refuses an independent audit, that’s a big red flag.
“I have spoken with Amazon and former Amazon employees at UTAW and I fully support the request for an independent audit. The Board’s response does not address any of the questions that can be answered through a truly independent investigation.