New York's state and city comptrollers on Dec. 18 issued shareholder proposals to companies they believe have not sufficiently fought against racial discrimination or gender parity within their organizations.
Thomas DiNapoli, the state comptroller and sole trustee of the $226.4 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund, Albany, filed a shareholder proposal at Amazon.com asking for an independent audit to review the company's civil rights, equity, diversity and inclusion policies.
Through its proposal, the common fund cites allegations that Amazon has disproportionately paid low wages to its Black and Latino warehouse employees, exposed these employees to COVID-19 through dangerous working conditions and discriminated against employees of its Whole Foods subsidiary for wearing Black Lives Matter masks while working.
"Amazon says it stands alongside those fighting systemic racism, yet we continue to see reports of workers facing racial discrimination, accusations of discriminatory wages and the sale of products that promote hatred," said Mr. DiNapoli in a news release. "Amazon needs an unbiased look at how it's addressing racial justice and equity, just as other major corporations have."
The shareholder proposal requests that the audit be conducted by an independent third party with input from civil rights organizations, employees, communities in which Amazon operates and other stakeholders. It also requests that a report on the audit be made public on Amazon's website.
Meanwhile, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer filed shareholder proposals at American Airlines, Dell Technologies, Kroger Co. and The TJX Cos. calling on the four companies to adopt a policy requiring them to consider both women and people of color when hiring senior executives.
A new release issued by Mr. Stringer's office said that these four companies "lack any apparent racial and ethnic diversity among the most senior ranks of their top executives."
Mr. Stringer sent the proposals on behalf the New York City Employees' Retirement System, Teachers Retirement System of the City of New York and New York City Board of Education Retirement System, which have a collective $150 billion in assets. Mr. Stringer serves as investment adviser, custodian and trustee of the pension funds.
"As a pension system, we want to invest in 21st century companies that represent the future, not companies with management teams that look like they're out of the 1950s," Mr. Stringer said in a separate release. "In 2020, there's simply no excuse for everyone in the C-Suite to look the same."
Mr. Stringer added: "Companies are strongest when their boardrooms and C-suites reflect the diversity that is America, and our push to increase diversity at all levels of the nation's largest corporations has yielded historic results."
The four companies will vote on the proposals at their 2021 annual shareholder meetings. Mr. Stringer said in the release that he expects to submit similar proposals to more companies over the news few months.
Separately, Mr. Stringer announced on Dec. 17 that he had filed a shareholder proposal at Amazon requesting that the company disclose its efforts protecting employees' health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. This proposal was filed after a report from the Center for Investigative Reporting in 2020 revealed that some Amazon warehouses were COVID-19 hotspots and the turnover rate for frontline employees were twice the industry average.