Final tally: Amazon shareholders vote down all proposals on pay equity, privacy tech, more

Protestors outside Amazon’s annual shareholders meeting in May 2019. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

At Amazon’s annual shareholders meeting last week, the company’s shareholders overwhelmingly shot down more than a dozen proposals aimed, proponents said, at making the company a more transparent and responsible corporate citizen.

The proposals largely concerned racial and equity issues, as well as antitrust and responsible use of Amazon’s technology, such as its facial recognition technology and Ring doorbell camera.

The company’s annual shareholder meeting is usually held in Seattle but was hosted online this year because of the pandemic. Voting results were posted on Amazon’s corporate site Friday.

Amazon had opposed all of the measures, saying the company is already doing enough to report and monitor the issues and that it’s working to bring more women and people of color into its top executive ranks.

The shareholder resolutions would have been non-binding; however, such measures are typically deployed to build consensus around certain corporate policies and pressure board of directors to take action.

In most cases shareholders voted against the proposals by a margin of roughly two-to-one or more.

The exception was a proposal that would have required an independent board chairman who is not — nor has ever been — the company’s CEO. Shareholders torpedoed that proposition by a margin of roughly six to one, signaling they want Bezos to continue to have a role in the company.

Notably, a proposal to audit the company’s impact on civil rights, equity and diversity issues was more narrowly defeated. The measure called on Amazon to commission an independent report examining, among other issues, allegations that surveillance footage from Amazon’s Ring doorbell cameras and related Neighbors app have been used to “disproportionately tag people of color as suspicious.”

Proponents of the civil rights audit also pointed to accusations that Amazon Web Services’ facial recognition software is used to disproportionately conduct surveillance on people of color, immigrants and civil rights groups.

In addition, the motion’s backers said, there have been reports that Amazon has inconsistently enforced policies barring the sale of products on its retail platform that “promote hatred.”

Other proposals calling for more transparency in Amazon’s practices when it comes to hiring and promoting executives who are women and people of color failed by wider margins.

A proposal to put an hourly logistics worker on Amazon’s board also failed, as did a proposal to audit the environmental impacts of the retail giant’s packaging, particularly as it relates to plastics accumulating in the world’s oceans.

The proposal to put an hourly worker on the board was presented during the meeting on behalf of Oxfam America by Jennifer Bates, an Amazon hourly worker who was part of the unsuccessful effort to unionize the company’s Bessemer, Ala., fulfillment center.

This is not the first time similar measures have been proposed and failed at Amazon’s shareholders meeting.

This year, however, Amazon is facing a string of lawsuits, five of which were filed last month, brought by corporate employees alleging gender and racial discrimination.

In addition, the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody has put questions of racial equity front and center in the public’s mind. Amazon’s executives have spoken out on social media and in blog posts in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Here were the final vote tallies on the shareholder proposals:

  • A shareholder proposal requesting a report on customer due diligence: 126,093,181 for, 231,103,314 against
  • A shareholder proposal requesting a mandatory independent board chair policy: 52,557,765 for, 299,204,942 against
  • A shareholder proposal requesting additional reporting on gender/racial pay: 93,415,729 for, 267,093,612 against
  • A shareholder proposal requesting a report on promotion data: 64,913,836 for; 294,816,522 against
  • A shareholder proposal requesting a report on packaging materials: 127,811,216 for; 231,830,287 against
  • A shareholder proposal requesting a diversity and equity audit report: 158,884,190 for; 200,719,903 against
  • A shareholder proposal requesting an alternative director candidate policy: 63,114,460 for; 297,945,126 against
  • A shareholder proposal requesting a report on competition strategy and risk: 120,544,009 for; 236,846,573 against
  • A shareholder proposal requesting an additional reduction in threshold for calling special shareholder meetings: 123,327,426 for; 238,071,476 against
  • A shareholder proposal requesting additional reporting on lobbying: 125,796,239 for; 234,754,900 against
  • A shareholder proposal requesting a report on customer use of certain technologies: 122,673,640 for; 234,690,392 against
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