Activist pension funds in New York City filed a lawsuit against Amazon, accusing the company of defrauding investors by hiding safety hazards at its warehouses. The suit alleges that Amazon has been withholding critical information about workplace injuries in order to hide how unsafe work conditions are for warehouse workers.
The “amazon workers strike 2021” is a new movement that has been started by pension funds in New York. The movement is to demand better worker safety.
A collection of pension funds from New York City and State that owns more than $5 billion in Amazon. AMZN -2.66 percent com Inc. shares are asking fellow shareholders to vote no on the re-election of two board members for failing to effectively safeguard worker safety, according to the institutions.
The New York City pension fund, which represents teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other unions, has teamed forces with the New York State pension fund and the Illinois state treasurer’s office to vote against Amazon directors Daniel Huttenlocher and Judith McGrath’s re-election. The two directors are members of an Amazon board committee that monitors leadership development.
New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, a Democrat, said in an interview that Amazon’s board of directors has repeatedly turned down requests to meet and discuss the company’s treatment of its workers, which the groups claim “violates state and federal law and also conflicts with Amazon’s own human-rights policy.”
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The funds claim that Amazon’s board of directors has failed to appropriately manage the health and safety of its employees, and they are concerned about the high incidence of employee injury and turnover at Amazon locations.
An Amazon spokeswoman supplied the company’s safety report when asked for comment. According to the paper, “we spent $300 million in safety upgrades in 2021, including capital improvements, new safety technologies, vehicle safety controls, and engineering ergonomic solutions.”
In the past, institutional investors have requested shareholder resolutions advocating for improved working conditions for workers, but it is unusual for one investor to push other shareholders to vote out directors over the subject. The funds own around 0.3 percent of Amazon’s $1.6 trillion market capitalization, or slightly over $5.3 billion in stock. Mr. Lander said that he intends to rally other pension funds and investors to vote against the directors. New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, a Democrat, is in charge of the state pension system.
According to a study released this month by the Strategic Organizing Center, a coalition of four labor unions, Amazon workers suffered serious injuries at twice the rate of non-Amazon warehouse workers last year. Amazon claims that their injury rate is somewhat higher than that of warehouse peers and slightly lower than that of courier and delivery peers, placing it on line with others overall.
In December, a tornado devastated an Amazon fulfillment site in Edwardsville, Illinois, killing six Amazon employees.
Agence France-Presse/Getty Images/tim vizer
Some Amazon employees claim that the corporation has excessive expectations regarding how quickly they should process goods. According to interviews, workers are required to prepare hundreds of parcels every hour in certain areas to support the company’s quick-delivery system. Employees responded that performance requirements are frequently among the top concerns that workers looking to join believe a union might assist them overcome.
In his annual letter to shareholders this month, Chief Executive Andy Jassy acknowledged that the company’s employee-injury rates were “occasionally misinterpreted,” but committed to improve. Last year, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos pledged to make the company “Earth’s Best Employer.”
Over the last two years, Amazon has implemented additional body mechanics-related safety training as well as increased salaries and benefits. Mr. Jassy said that the firm is working to enhance safety by minimizing strains, falls, and repetitive-stress injuries.
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Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) wrote to Mr. Jassy on behalf of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform earlier this month, demanding records pertaining to Amazon’s labor policies, especially during extreme weather. Six employees died at an Amazon warehouse in Illinois in December, after a series of storms killed scores of people across many states.
Their letter refers to stories in the media that Amazon managers were threatened with firing if they left work to seek refuge.
Workers at the warehouse had little time to prepare for the storm, according to Amazon, and officials claim that the corporation took major measures that night to protect employee safety.
The decision by the pension funds adds to the pressure on Amazon over labor concerns as the corporation fights a growing union movement. Amazon warehouse employees on Staten Island, New York, voted earlier this month to form the internet giant’s first union in the United States, paving the way for labor advocates who have long pushed to bring representation to the country’s second-largest private employer. Next Monday, workers at a second Staten Island warehouse will vote on whether or not to become a union.
During the Covid-19 epidemic in May 2020, employees at an Amazon fulfillment facility.
Terry Pierson/Zuma Press photo
According to Mr. Lander, New York City’s five pension funds, which represent some of the country’s biggest unions, unanimously backed the “vote no” campaign against Amazon directors. He also expressed alarm about rumors that Amazon management was attempting to sabotage unionization efforts.
Amazon officials have said that although they accept their workers’ freedom to form unions, they feel that employees would be better off without one.
An activist investor is also targeting Amazon. According to The Wall Street Journal, Dan Loeb, whose Third Point LLC has Amazon as one of its largest assets, told his clients in February that the company had $1 trillion in untapped potential. Mr. Loeb believes Amazon would be more valuable if it were split into two companies: retail and cloud computing. Mr. Loeb, on the other hand, has given no indication that he intends to mount a full-fledged campaign.
—This article was co-written by Sebastian Herrera.
The distinction between Amazon and Walmart is blurring as the two corporations compete for a piece of the projected $5 trillion retail industry while eroding the other’s share, frequently by stealing one other’s ideas. Amazon/Walmart photos
Dana Mattioli can be reached at [email protected]
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Amazon is facing new activism from pension funds in New York over worker safety. The company has been criticized for its working conditions, and some have even called for them to be boycotted. Reference: why do amazon workers want to unionize.
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