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Amazon Shareholders Vote Down Warehouse Safety Proposals

At the annual shareholders meeting, investors reject proposals with the potential to analyze and change Amazon's quota system.

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Amazon says its injury rates are a result of hiring lots of new workers.
Ben Fox Rubin/CNET

Amazon's shareholders have rejected a nonbinding proposal that called on the company to abandon warehouse productivity practices blamed for high injury rates, even as the company faces a growing unionization push.

Also rejected at the company's annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday: another proposal calling for an independent audit of working conditions at the company's warehouses.

Brought by Amazon warehouse worker Daniel Olayiwola, the resolution took aim at a system of rate requirements, which measure productivity, and the tracking of employees' pace and activity. Washington State regulators have said these requirements are directly responsible for injury rates at a warehouse near the company's Seattle headquarters. Union groups have also complained about the practices.

The resolutions come as Amazon and the broader retail industry face a wave of labor organizing. Workers at one Amazon warehouse on New York's Staten Island voted to join the fledgling Amazon Labor Union though workers at a nearby facility rejected unionizing. Challenged ballots in a union election at a Bessemer, Alabama, facility have yet to be resolved and counted. Organizing drives have taken root at Starbucks, REI and Target stores as well.

Amazon opposed the nonbinding resolution on abandoning quotas and employee tracking. Speaking after the votes, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy told shareholders that the company has found warehouse injuries are most likely to occur in the first months of employment and that the company increased its hiring dramatically in the past year. 

"When you hire more people, your [injury] rates tend to go up," Jassy said. He added that the company has examined its injury rate and found it to be only a little higher than average in the warehouse industry. Still, he said, that's not a reason to stop improving.

"I take no solace in being average," Jassy said. "We want to be the best in the industry."

Olayiwola, the worker who brought the proposal, said in a statement that Amazon's standards are "exploitative and dangerous." The standards "make something as simple as using the bathroom an anxiety-inducing decision between relieving yourself and losing your job," he said.

Shareholders also voted to reject proposals to add a warehouse worker to Amazon's board and to produce a report on warehouse workers' rights to organize.