This story has been updated with comments from Amazon.
Long-time Amazon stock owners will get a chance tomorrow to learn more from top executives about the future of the company, but a few other groups will be on hand for the annual shareholder meeting in an attempt to make their voices heard.
A group of pilots that fly Amazon’s Prime Air delivery jets will gather outside of the meeting to voice concerns about issues of short-staffing and poor working conditions at the airline carriers Amazon has contracted with.
Atlas Air Worldwide as well as Ohio-based Air Transport Services Group have been flying packages for Amazon for months. Amazon in August debuted a Boeing 767-300 painted with the company’s Prime Air branding, its first jet to be leased from and operated by Atlas Air. By the end of 2018, each of the companies expects to be operating 20 leased 767 jets for Amazon deliveries. Amazon also holds options to buy stakes in both ATSG and Atlas Air.
The pilots have staged other Amazon-related protests in the past, but they are not protesting Amazon itself. They want to instead call on Amazon, and in this case, shareholders, to encourage the airlines to hire more pilots and provide better conditions.
“Amazon is at the heart of our carriers’ vision for the future and that’s why it’s our responsibility as pilots to alert shareholders about the underlying issues at our airlines that could spell trouble for our relationship,” said First Officer Marvin Tate, an Atlas Air pilot who has flown for the company for two years. “AAWW has made huge commitments to Amazon even though we’re losing dozens of pilots a month and are not able to replace them. We urge Amazon investors and executives to heed the voices of those on the frontlines, and encourage its contracted carriers to help build a successful partnership that works for customers, pilots and our businesses alike.”
Amazon had the following to say as it relates to issues with its Prime Air partners.
“Questions about the working environment of our partners is best addressed by them,” the company said. “All of our delivery providers must abide by our Supplier Code of Conduct and we take seriously any allegation that a delivery provider is not meeting those requirements and expectations. That said, we are pleased with our partners’ performance and their continued ability to scale for our customers.”
350 Seattle, a Seattle organization focused on climate change said it plans to hold its own meeting, the “people’s shareholder event” across the street from Amazon’s shareholder meeting. The gathering of a coalition of labor, faith and other community organizations intends to argue that Amazon needs to do more to be a leader on workers’ rights, housing and transit and environmental sustainability.
“Given Amazon’s enormous scale, small changes can have a big impact, and big changes can be game-changing,” the group said in an email to GeekWire. “We expect Amazon to be a leader on these issues. Because if corporate behavior doesn’t change soon … we’re all in very deep water indeed.”
Amazon has made sustainability a key goal for the future, and the company said it was the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the U.S. in 2016. Amazon Web Services has a long-term goal of using 100 percent renewable energy to power its cloud infrastructure. Amazon in March announced a plan to install solar energy systems on 50 of its fulfillment center rooftops around the world by 2020, starting with 15 U.S. facilities this year.
The company has existing wind and solar farms in California, New Jersey, Maryland, Nevada and Delaware, serving electric grids that include its massive data centers in those areas. Other energy projects include recycling “waste heat” from a nearby data center to power the company’s newest buildings in Seattle.
Multiple progressive organizations, such as MoveOn.org, plan to deliver a petition signed by 1.2 million people urging Amazon to block its ads from appearing on the right-wing news site Breitbart. The group will also fly a plane over the meeting, with a banner reading: “Amazon stop funding hate. Drop Breitbart.”
The group says Amazon is one of the few holdovers among large companies that hasn’t blocked ads from appearing on the site after an organization, after thousands of companies were called out by a group called Sleeping Giants on Twitter. Amazon employees have also taken issue with company ads on Breitbart.
Other organizations are planning to make their voices heard in different ways. The AFL-CIO is behind one of the advisory votes up for consideration at the meeting, a request that the board prepare a report on the use of criminal background checks in hiring and employment decisions. The request comes after Amazon reportedly directed contractors in Boston to fire delivery drivers following criminal background checks. Several of those drivers then sued Amazon, claiming discrimination in the background checks.
In the meeting proxy statement, the board recommends that shareholders vote against this request. It also urges no votes on a request to use sustainability as an executive compensation measure, and a proposal to overhaul voting methods at the meeting.
Various contingents of protests make their way to the Amazon meeting pretty much every year, and 2017 will be no different. In the past, those included affordable housing advocates, workers’ rights groups, animal rights activists, and a women’s rights group that flew a plane over the meeting urging the company to stop selling Donald Trump products.