NEWYORK: Amazon has announced that it would conduct an audit overseen by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch to “examine any discriminatory racial consequences” of its rules on its hourly employees in the United States.
Amazon (AMZN) announced the initiative in a filing late last week in response to shareholder demand to perform a racial equality audit to address “controversies” surrounding the company’s recruiting policies and abilities to safeguard warehouse workers, many of whom are Black.
New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, on behalf of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, presented a shareholder motion to undertake an audit ahead of Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting next month.
“The audit’s primary goal will be to assess any discriminatory racial impacts on our roughly one million hourly employees in the United States as a result of our policies, initiatives, and practises,” Amazon’s board stated in a filing last week.
Lynch and others from the legal firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP will undertake the audit, according to the corporation. Lynch joined the company in 2019 as a partner after being the first Black woman to serve as US Attorney General in 2015. CNN Business reached out to the legal firm for comment on the audit, but it did not immediately reply.
Amazon has stated that after the audit is done, the results would be made public.
Amazon pointed CNN Business to the SEC filing in response to a request for more information. Amazon’s board of directors recommended shareholders to vote no on a second petition demanding a diversity and equity audit, according to the filing. “We do not feel that a separate audit of the same concerns is warranted,” it stated.
Matthew Sweeney, a spokeswoman for DiNapoli’s office, raised some reservations in reaction to Amazon’s intention to undertake an audit. “Comptroller DiNapoli and the state pension fund are eager to hear more about Amazon’s proposed racial equity audit,” Sweeney said in a statement to CNN Business on Tuesday.
Amazon’s announcement of a racial equity audit comes just weeks after Amazon warehouse workers on Staten Island, New York, voted to create the company’s first-ever US labour union. Amazon has subsequently filed an appeal, requesting that the entire vote be redone. A separate Amazon union election was recently held in Bessemer, Alabama, with results that were too close to call.
Both union movements were driven in part by rising national attention to racial justice concerns and labour rights, as well as worker discontent with Amazon’s handling of employees during the epidemic.
Molly Kinder, a Brookings Institution researcher whose research focuses on the present and future of labour, particularly for low-wage employees, told CNN Business Tuesday, “I don’t believe the timing coming so close on the heels of the votes in Staten Island and Bessemer is a coincidence.” “I believe the firm is paying attention to what’s going on with the unions.”
“Almost a third of their more entry-level warehouse workers are Black, and that’s almost quadruple the share of Black workers in the wider labour force,” she said, using Amazon’s own data. Kinder does remark, however, that Black presence at Amazon is dwindling at the corporate and upper levels of management, as it is at many other big US corporations.
“During the epidemic, Amazon was by far one of the most successful corporations. They’ve had massive growth, tremendous profit gains, and significant stock price increases “Kinder said. The “disproportionately White” executives and large stockholders are the ones who are “truly enjoying the true rewards of that financial success,” she added.
While Kinder considers Amazon’s audit and data collection to be an essential first step, “clearly, what Amazon does with that knowledge is really where we’ll see whether or not change will happen,” she added.