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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 ClarkeGOP leaders hesitant to challenge Trump on Saudi Arabia House lawmakers introduce bill to end US support in Yemen civil war Poll shows Rep. Luis Gutiérrez as front-runner in Chicago mayoral race MORE (D-N.Y.), Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyFacebook to remove over 5K ad target options to curb discrimination Dems want GOP chairman to subpoena State Department over cyber docs Lawmakers sound alarm over Amazon face recognition software MORE (D-Ill.), Bonnie Watson ColemanBonnie Watson ColemanMnuchin pulls out of Saudi conference GOP leaders hesitant to challenge Trump on Saudi Arabia Hillicon Valley: Sanders finds perfect target in Amazon | Cyberattacks are new fear 17 years after 9/11 | Firm outs alleged British Airways hackers | Trump to target election interference with sanctions | Apple creating portal for police data requests 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 GrishamNative American House candidate praises Warren: 'I join her in celebrating her ancestry' Hispanic Caucus chair rips request to fund Trump border wall Hispanic Dems want answers on detention of immigrant minors MORE (D-N.M.) and Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroWhite House responds to Joaquin Castro's Kushner allegations: 'an outrageous slanderous lie' Overnight Defense: US, South Korea cancel another military exercise | Dozen sailors injured in chopper crash on aircraft carrier | Navy vet charged with sending toxic letters Joaquin Castro accuses Kushner of orchestrating killing of Khashoggi 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.