Sunday , August 7 2022

Amazon and critics wage a PR war in an annual meeting with highly contrasting portraits of the technology giant

A scene from a video Amazon showed during its virtual general meeting.

Working at Amazon is either like “winning a golden ticket” or dealing with a “poison vein” that runs through the company.

These were Amazon's duel visions presented at the company's annual meeting on Wednesday morning by executives and organizations who wanted to hold the company accountable for its response to the COVID-19 crisis and a variety of social and global issues.

The shareholders voted for eleven proposals to reform Amazon's policies in everything from the environment to workplace discrimination. Each of the suggestions was rejected. However, the meeting, which was held practically for the first time, offered a top-class platform for criticism of the company.

"Toxicity is inherent in our business because pollution leads to stunted lung development, asthma and higher mortality rates from COVID-19, which focuses on black and brown communities," said former employee Maren Costa on a shareholder resolution. "This is environmental racism."

However, the company received the first and last words when the meeting started with a number of vignettes by front-line employees and highlighting its investment in COVID-19 initiatives, which are expected to cost around $ 4 billion this quarter alone. In some cases, the videos implicitly countered critics who had put pressure on Amazon to be more transparent about the consequences of the disease for its employees and to take further measures to ensure their safety.

"If anything, they took security overboard, and I love that," said a video employee.

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, ended the meeting with a promise: “You can rest assured that we will use our ingenuity, size and scale, and use our resources to improve the lives of our customers, the lives of our employees to improve and improve the communities in which we do business. I promise you will never stop doing these things. "

Bezos and other Amazon executives were not seen on video during the meeting, but instead showed their pictures on transparencies during their remarks.

Costa, one of two high-profile former Amazon employees who were fired for talking about the company's response to climate change, and COVID-19 made a proposal. In a recorded statement, she called on the company on behalf of the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice activist group.

Costa went straight to Bezos and quoted a handful of controversial layoffs in recent weeks, including the layoff of a New York warehouse worker, Christian Smalls, who was fired after organizing a strike that called for more extensive security measures. According to Amazon, Smalls was released for violating a company-enforced quarantine, but a leaked memo in which Amazon manager David Zapolsky tried to use Smalls as a PR tactic questioned the allegation.

"Jeff, I've worked for you for 15 years," said Costa. “But I and eight others were recently released, and VP Tim Bray resigned, citing a poison vein that runs through the company. This toxicity was demonstrated in leadership interviews with racist comments and a plan to smear Chris Smalls. The toxicity is embedded in our business because pollution causes stunted lung development, asthma, and higher mortality rates from COVID-19, which is concentrated in black and brown communities. This is environmental racism. "

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice attended the event to promote a shareholder resolution calling on Amazon to reduce CO2 emissions to zero by 2030, initially focusing on color communities and other fringe groups that had the most serious impact of the Were exposed to climate change.

At the meeting last year, the activist group met in solidarity to urge the company to take more aggressive measures to reduce the environmental impact. A few months later, Amazon announced its "climate protection promise". Bezos said the company was "done with being in the middle of the herd on this issue." The Climate Pledge obliges Amazon to achieve CO2 neutrality by 2040.

This year's shareholder resolutions dealt with issues such as food waste; Use of Amazon technologies for law enforcement oversight; and policies and controls for products that promote hatred, violence, or bias. Another proposal stimulates efforts to replace Bezos as chairman of the board, and demands that the director be independent in this position.

A previously recorded presentation included the voice of an employee who said a skip-level manager blocked her request for a suggestion and asked, "Why do you think you're ready for a promo?" You should spend some time making friends or having fun. "

"These stories are a shared experience and happen at all levels at Amazon and across the technology industry," said Hana Thier, an Amazon software engineer, during the meeting. “Sexism and racism harm those who experience it, our recruitment and loyalty as well as the public image and profit margins. I urge you to support the important proposal so that you can assess the real risk for Amazon and its employees. "

Zapolsky said Amazon takes "all allegations of discrimination seriously and they have no place on Amazon or any other job" in response to the presentation.

About Darrel Hodges

Darrel Hodges works as a computer technician at a technology company.

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