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Black, Hispanic lawmakers hammer Amazon directors' opposition to diversity rule

Black, Hispanic lawmakers hammer Amazon directors' opposition to diversity rule
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Members of the House Tech Accountability Caucus are frustrated with Amazon's refusal to implement a new measure aimed at improving its board's racial diversity.

Lawmakers on Friday expressed discontent with Amazon board members who are advocating against a shareholder proposal to use the “Rooney Rule” to add new members to its corporate board.

The rule, which has most prominently been used by NFL teams, would require an initial list of candidates to include minorities and women.

“The Rooney Rule should be the floor, not the ceiling,” Reps. Yvette ClarkeYvette Diane ClarkeFeds eye more oversight of pipelines after Colonial attack Hillicon Valley: Broadband companies funded fake net neutrality comments, investigation finds | Twitter rolls out tip feature | Google to adopt 'hybrid work week' Biden administration, Congress unite in effort to tackle ransomware attacks MORE (D-N.Y.), Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyHHS expands Medicaid postpartum coverage for Illinois mothers up to a year after giving birth Democrats spar over COVID-19 vaccine strategy Lawmakers emphasize prioritizing patients' needs in health care policy MORE (D-Ill.), Bonnie Watson ColemanBonnie Watson ColemanBiden takes victory lap after Senate passes coronavirus relief package Senate approves sweeping coronavirus measure in partisan vote Progressives won't oppose bill over limits on stimulus checks MORE (D-N.J.) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), who are also members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), wrote in a letter obtained by The Hill, which they plan to send to Amazon on Monday.

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Amazon’s board recently recommended a vote against a shareholder proposal to institute the rule.

“Amazon leadership’s flat rejection of a shareholder proposal supporting the ‘Rooney rule’ in the hiring process for new management and directors is astounding,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Our astonishment is compounded when you consider the fact that your 'customer-centric' company — with over 300 million active users — has zero people of color on your 10-person Board of Directors.”

The lawmakers said they expect Amazon to arrange a meeting with them and to respond with how the company plans to improve diversity in its board of directors and across its workforce.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) will also send a letter to Amazon over its leadership's decision not to support the Rooney Rule's implementation.

In their letter, obtained by The Hill, CHC Chairs Reps. Michelle Lujan GrishamMichelle Lynn Lujan GrishamBiden vows to get 'more aggressive' on lifestyle benefits of vaccines White House to announce deal for free vaccination rides from Uber, Lyft DC deserves a governor MORE (D-N.M.) and Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroAsian American lawmakers say State's 'assignment restrictions' discriminate Democrats ask Biden to reverse employee policy on past marijuana use The Hill's Morning Report - Biden's next act: Massive infrastructure plan with tax hikes MORE (D-Texas) urged the company to consider the rule, noting that of Amazon's top 105 executives, only one is Hispanic.

The letters follow several CBC members' trip to Silicon Valley earlier this month to discuss matters of workforce diversity technology companies. The tech industry — Amazon included — has historically had low diversity among its staff.

A senior Democratic aide told The Hill on Friday that lawmakers want Amazon leadership to take greater responsibility for efforts to increase diversity.

“Members are very mad at this,” the aide said. “The bigger issue is that CBC wants to see more accountability on the senior level. They want CEOs to take leadership."

The aide noted that a potential model for this could be the Internet Association’s recent decision to hire a director of diversity and inclusion following a push from Cleaver and Coleman.