In 2022, this proposal received a whopping 44% of overall votes and a 53.4% majority of the independent votes. You can see the 2022 voting results in this 8-K form. In 2023, we refiled this proposal to receive 35.4% of the overall vote and 42.8% of the independent vote, the highest vote of any Amazon proposal filed this year. You can see the 2023 voting results in this 8-K form.
Why It's Important
While Amazon purportedly strives to be the “Earth’s Best Employer” and “Earth’s Safest Place to Work”, there have been continuing reports of its employees being subjected to unsafe working conditions and unfair treatment on a global scale, specifically its warehouse workers.
Amazon’s human capital management system is in crisis, causing workers in the US to be injured at rates more than twice the industry average. The need for an independent health and safety audit at Amazon is increasingly evident, especially when considering the company’s own CEO, Andy Jassy, relied on misleading and outdated statistics to claim that Amazon's high injury rate is "about average" in his letter to shareholders. Amazon also used outdated statistics in a January 2022 report to erroneously claim its rate of injury had improved by 40%, when, in fact, the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) data shows Amazon’s injury rate worsened by 20%.
Amazon’s continued pattern of “cherry-picking and distorting data to create the illusion that Amazon's business model is less dangerous than it is in reality” is what led the Strategic Organizing Center (SOC) to file a complaint against Amazon with the US Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). In the complaint, SOC argues that Amazon’s false and misleading assertions are what led some investors, including BlackRock, to vote against Tulipshare’s proposal last year. Similarly, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is investigating workplace safety and related issues at Amazon warehouses, including injuries resulting from workplace hazards, worker rate requirements and the pace of work, and whether Amazon appropriately reported on-the-job injuries.
Amazon’s claim that it “provides a safe and positive workplace” directly contradicts reality. For example, OSHA issued multiple citations against Amazon at six warehouses in December 2022, January 2023 and February 2023 over unsafe working conditions, ergonomic hazards and failure to properly report injuries. The severity of the problem is highlighted by the fact that over the past year OSHA concluded that Amazon is endangering employees in at least seven warehouses across five states - an unprecedented geographic range for its investigations.
As recently as February 2023, OSHA cited Amazon at a seventh warehouse for ignoring well-known safety hazards. OSHA also found recordkeeping violations, with Amazon failing to properly record worker injuries and illnesses. This recent violation prompted OSHA’s Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health to declare that the agency is “continu[ing] to find that Amazon's work processes are designed for speed, not safety, and that these processes cause serious injuries to workers.” He explained further that, "Amazon needs to focus more of its passion for innovation and performance on eliminating the hazards that injure workers."
In January 2023, a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) judge held that Amazon violated US Federal labour law by illegally threatening to withhold wage increases and improved benefits if workers elected a union, and by illegally removing an employee’s digital message board post inviting colleagues to sign a petition. As part of the judge’s order, Amazon was required to conspicuously post a notice to employees stating that the company had violated federal law and that employees do, in fact, have the right to unionise and act together with other employees for their benefit and protection.
Union-busting tactics employed by Amazon also include retaliation against employees seeking to unionise and captive audience meetings. According to NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo, Amazon’s captive audience meetings “inherently involve an unlawful threat that employees will be disciplined or suffer other reprisals if they exercise their protected right not to listen to such speech.”
Moreover, Amazon’s union-busting tactics start at the top. NLRB filed a complaint and notice of hearing against CEO Jassy for breaking labour laws with his public anti-union statements. The complaint alleges that Jassy’s comments had the effect of “interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees” regarding their rights to inform themselves about unions and to choose whether or not to join them.
During the global pandemic, Amazon’s profits experienced a 37% increase in year-on-year quarterly sales as reported in October 2020. This amounts to over $96.1 billion in revenue. Though inflation and rising interest rates have reportedly affected Amazon’s overall growth recently, Amazon’s core e-commerce business of selling products directly to consumers was only down 2% and the services it offers to third-party sellers, which provide 59% of products sold, was up 20% as of February 2023.
Former CEO and current Executive Chair Jeff Bezos’ net worth continues to grow and as of February 2023 exceeds $100 billion, making Bezos one of the richest people on the planet. There is a massive income disparity at Amazon, highlighted by a report which states that it takes eight weeks for an Amazon warehouse worker to earn what Jeff Bezos makes in a single second. Indeed, Amazon workers in San Bernardino, US report that they spend 75% of their net salary on maintenance costs, have no savings and rely on food stamps to get by.
In response to the increased demand for online shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon hired an additional 400,000 employees in the U.S. alone. However, there have also been increased complaints of unsafe working conditions. A warehouse worker from St. Louis, Missouri reported that her quota is to pack 70 packages per hour for up to 11 hours. During one of her shifts she tore a ligament in her wrist. Not only did Amazon make her finish her shift, but when she returned the next day, she was sent back to work with the expectation to meet her normal productivity rate or face discipline.
There is widespread demand for Amazon to improve the treatment of its workers. Over 400 legislators from 34 countries have signed a letter addressed to Jeff Bezos demanding that Amazon better protect its workers, stating that “the world knows that Amazon can afford to pay its workers, its environmental cost, and its taxes. And yet -- time and again -- you have dodged and dismissed your debts to workers, societies, and the planet.”
There are numerous stories of Amazon warehouse workers getting injured while on the job, particularly during the holiday season. A report found that in Rugeley, England, on average one ambulance was called each week to the Amazon warehouse which employed over 1,000 people. Across the pond in the US, there have been numerous reports of workers dying mid-shift, with one worker dying from cardiac arrest on Prime Day, one of the busiest retail days of the year.
Other reports of the mistreatment of Amazon warehouse workers state that workers fear losing their jobs for not meeting unattainable quotas and taking breaks to use the restroom, forcing them to urinate in bottles as they arrive at the warehouse and during their shifts.
The unionisation efforts by Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama prompted Bezos to publicly acknowledge that Amazon needs “to do a better job for our employees.” Now is the time for Amazon to follow up with meaningful action. An independent audit of Amazon’s workers would shine a spotlight on warehouse workers’ unsafe working conditions and unfair treatment, forcing Amazon to both acknowledge the disparity between reality and its purported goals of being the “Earth’s Best Employer” and “Earth’s Safest Place to Work” and to enact positive change that will improve conditions for its warehouse workers.
Strikes among Amazon workers in the UK and the US are ramping up with workers continuously demanding safer working conditions and pay raises. We urge you to support this campaign to ensure that the US e-commerce giant is held accountable.
Our proposal received a 35.4% of the overall vote and 42.8% of the independent vote at Amazon's 2023 AGM held on the 24th May at 9am Pacific Time (5pm GMT). This proposal received 44% overall support at the 2022 AGM in its first year submission (53.4% majority of independent votes).We will continue to engage with the company, and will keep you updated.
The record date pertains to the date by which investors must hold their shares in a company in order to participate in the company’s AGM. Amazon’s 2023 record date was March 20, 2023.
Voting at the AGM
If you hold Amazon stock before the next AGM record date, you will be eligible to vote at the next AGM and receive an email from us closer to the deadline.
What is shareholder activism?
Shareholder activism is when shareholders use their influence as owners of a company to effectuate change within the organisation.
What is Tulipshare?
Tulipshare is an sustainable investment fund and shareholder advocacy group on a mission to help investors push for stronger environmental and social commitments, using corporate governance to create a positive impact and ensure the companies we invest our money in are being responsibly managed by accountable leadership.
How does Tulipshare improve sustainability through investing?
Tulipshare addresses issues pertaining to climate change, human rights, racial and gender equity, political spending and operational transparency within some of America’s biggest publicly traded companies - issues that if left unaddressed could expose a company and its investors to significant legal, reputational and financial risks.