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 ClarkeHillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data House Democrats question DHS over using facial recognition tech on US citizens MORE (D-N.Y.), Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyHouse panel advances bill to create cybersecurity standards for government IT devices House panel advances bill to create cybersecurity standards for government IT devices The Congressional Black Caucus: America stands to lose a lot under TrumpCare MORE (D-Ill.), Bonnie Watson ColemanBonnie Watson ColemanOvernight Energy: Interior chief says climate response falls on Congress | Bernhardt insists officials will complete offshore drilling plans | Judge rules EPA must enforce Obama landfill pollution rules Trump Interior chief says climate change response falls on Congress Interior chief says offshore drilling plan not 'indefinitely sidelined' 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 GrishamNew Mexico bans employers from asking about applicants' criminal history New Mexico bans employers from asking about applicants' criminal history Trump antagonizes both parties on trade MORE (D-N.M.) and Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroTrump's border funding comes back from the dead House passes bill to protect 'Dreamers' House passes bill to protect 'Dreamers' 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.