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 ClarkeOvernight Energy & Environment — New York Democrats go after 'peaker' plants Three House Democrats ask watchdog to probe 'peaker' power plant pollution Officials point to Apache vulnerability in urging passage of cyber incident reporting bill MORE (D-N.Y.), Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - New vaccine mandate in NYC; Biden-Putin showdown The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Omicron tests vaccines; Bob Dole dies at 98 Maternal and child health legislation must be prioritized now MORE (D-Ill.), Bonnie Watson ColemanBonnie Watson ColemanSanders, 50 Democrats unveil bill to send N95 masks to all Americans Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman discusses decision to keep some people on home confinement out of prison Lawmakers split on next steps to secure transportation sectors against hackers 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 GrishamOvernight Health Care — White House boosts mask availability New Mexico calls in National Guard to staff schools, child care centers Democrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit MORE (D-N.M.) and Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroFeehery: A better than even shot of flipping a Texas district Lawmakers call for investigation into proposed AT&T WarnerMedia, Discovery merger Israel says blacklisted NSO Group 'has nothing to do' with government policies 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.