New York City’s and New York state’s public pension plans are launching a proxy fight to oust two Amazon directors, in a bid to highlight what the retirement programs say are unsafe working conditions at the retailer’s warehouses.
The five city plans and the state program, New York State Common Retirement Fund, which together hold $5 billion in Amazon stock (0.3% of its market value), are urging other public retirement systems to vote against two of Amazon’s 11 board members up for another one-year term at the company’s May 26 annual shareholders’ meeting.
Targeted are Daniel Huttenlocher, dean of the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, and Judith McGrath, former chair and CEO of MTV Networks Entertainment Group, a Viacom unit. They have been on the Amazon board since 2016 and 2014, respectively. Amazon declined to comment, and the two directors couldn’t be reached.
The New York proxy campaign is reminiscent of last year’s successful effort to remove three directors from the Exxon Mobil board. Led by New York State Common, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, the proxy drive aimed to give climate activists a voice on the oil behemoth’s board.
Huttenlocher and McGrath are members of the Amazon board’s Leadership Development and Compensation Committee. A letter from New York City Comptroller Brad Lander and New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who oversee the city and state plans, cited unresponsiveness from the committee to requests since 2020 for a meeting on the officials’ concerns.
The comptrollers criticized what they called “Amazon’s high injury rate relative to peers, unsustainable turnover, and labor rights violations, as well as high executive compensation as evidence of the committee’s misplaced priorities.”
In the past, Amazon has denied that it doesn’t care about workers’ safety. It issued a report about the $300 million it spent last year in safety enhancements and other moves it made to improve conditions for its workers.