Sunday, April 17, 2022

SEC Denies Amazon’s Attempt to Block a Vote on NYC Retirement Systems’ Shareholder Proposal on Health and Safety Disparities


Vote will take place at May 25th Meeting of Amazon Shareholders.

 New York City Comptroller Brad Lander announced that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has determined that Amazon, Inc. must allow shareholders to vote on a proposal submitted by the New York City Retirement Systems to require the company to report detailed data on the company’s health and safety practices.

The New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS), the New York City Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS), and the New York City Board of Education Retirement System (BERS) filed a shareholder proposal in December 2021 that calls on Amazon to assess whether its health and safety practices are leading to racial and gender disparities in workplace injury rates among its warehouse workers.  The company sought to toss out the shareholder proposal, but the SEC ruled that shareholders should be allowed to vote on it at the company’s May 25th annual meeting.

Lander organized a letter to Amazon directors, along with New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, and the State Treasurers of Illinois, Oregon, and Vermont to discuss the company’s human capital management practices with institutional investors. Amazon declined the request to meet.

“The high rates of injury to Amazon workers raise serious concerns about how health and safety practices impact the company’s racially and ethnically diverse workforce, practices that may impact the company’s bottom line. Calls from workers for companies to strengthen workplace safety protections have continued to grow, and Amazon’s leadership owes investors answers to how they are addressing these risks. I am grateful to the SEC for denying Amazon’s attempt to disenfranchise shareholders from voting to have Amazon disclose critical information about how it is addressing serious health and safety concerns,” said New York City Comptroller Brad Lander.

Amazon is the second largest employer in the United States, and its health and safety issues have a significant impact on its more than 1.3 million diverse workers. Nationally and across industries, studies have shown Black and Hispanic workers were more likely to experience work-related disabilities compared to white workers, and research also found that Black workers’ occupational fatality rate was 1.3 to 1.5 times higher. Amazon has been cited for significantly higher injury rates at its warehouses before and during the pandemic. Since 2017, according to one analysis of government data, Amazon reported a higher rate of serious injury incidents leading to missed work or light-duty shifts than at other retailers’ warehouses. Data also show Amazon’s serious injury rates were nearly double those of their peers.

Amazon has announced that it is making large investments in safety and health initiatives, yet details are scant, and investors lack transparency into how Amazon analyzes adverse impacts of the company’s health and safety practices on its workers, especially warehouse workers of color.

The shareholder proposal also requests that the company assess the impact of any such disparities on the long-term earnings and career advancement potential of female and minority warehouse workers. It would mandate Amazon’s board of directors to release the report and include lost time injury rates for all warehouse workers, broken down by race, gender and ethnicity.

Comptroller Lander is the custodian and a trustee of the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, the New York City Teachers’ Retirement System, and custodian of the New York City Board of Education Retirement System. The three New York City Retirement Systems own over 465 thousand shares of stock at Amazon, Inc., valued at approximately $1.4 billion as of February 28th.

The full SEC decision letter and shareholder proposal can be read here.

Trustees of the pension fund board bringing this resolution are:

New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS): New York City Comptroller Brad Lander; Mayor Eric Adams’ Representative Preston Niblack, Chair; New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams; Borough Presidents: Mark Levine (Manhattan), Donovan Richards (Queens), Antonio Reynoso (Brooklyn), Vito Fossella (Staten Island), and Vanessa L. Gibson (Bronx); Henry Garrido, Executive Director, District Council 37, AFSCME; Tony Utano, President Transport Workers Union Local 100; and Gregory Floyd, President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 237.

Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS): New York City Comptroller Brad Lander; Mayor Eric Adams’ Appointee Philip Dukes; Chancellor’s Representative, Lindsey Oates, New York City Department of Education; and Debra Penny (Chair), Thomas Brown and David Kazansky, all of the United Federation of Teachers.

Board of Education Retirement System (BERS): Schools Chancellor David C. Banks, Represented by Lindsey Oates; Mayoral: Tom Allon, Vasthi Acosta, Gregory Faulkner, Dr. Angela Green, Anthony Lopez, Alan Ong, Gladys Ward, Karina Tavera; Thomas Sheppard (CEC); Geneal Chacon (Bronx), Tazin Azad (Brooklyn), Kaliris Salas-Ramirez (Manhattan), Jaclyn Tacoronte (Staten Island), and Deborah Dillingham (Queens); and employee members John Maderich of the IUOE Local 891 and Donald Nesbit of District Council 37, Local 372.

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