International Corporate Accountability Roundtable

Interactive Workshops – Day I

Holding Amazon Accountable: Sharing Stories and Strategies

Time:2:30 PM to 3:45 PM

Room:Ceremonial Classroom


• Greg Regaignon, Wellspring Philanthropic Fund (facilitator)

• Josh Kellermann, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union Policy Director (RWDSU)

• Sarah Zoen, Oxfam

• Paloma Munoz Quick, Investor Alliance for Human Rights

Background Information

Amazon is the world’s largest multinational tech company by revenue, the second largest employer in the United States, the most valuable retailer in the United States, and the largest e-commerce and cloud computing platform. The company transformed bookselling and stands to disrupt a range of major industries, from health care to food to security. This workshop examines efforts to engage Amazon on a range of business and human rights concerns, from labor rights to global food supply chains and facial recognition technology used to support border control policies. The workshop recognizes that ICAR members may be considering their own engagement with Amazon and is designed to highlight opportunities and challenges and successful strategies for engagement.

Amazon HQ2

In early 2018, Amazon chose 20 cities from among 240 to bid for the privilege of hosting its new headquarters. Ultimately Long Island, New York and Arlington, Virginia outbid the others with packages of tax incentives and development sites that were largely negotiated in secret. When Amazon announced its decision in November 2018, state and local politicians in New York reacted angrily, citing the lack of public consultation and engagement. Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), called the economics of the deal into question. "Amazon, one of the wealthiest and largest companies in history, needs the city more than the city needs Amazon – plain and simple. If Amazon wants to come here they can afford to do so on their own.” In February of this year, Amazon pulled the plug on the Long Island location, unwilling to endure further scrutiny. As reported by Mother Jones: “One of the key factors behind the reversal was mounting political pressure from labor and progressive activists who raised red flags about the billion-dollar company’s anti-labor activity and work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, while highlighting ongoing gentrification in Queens that the company’s presence would accelerate. Labor activists hoped to leverage the city’s offer of subsidies to make the company commit to union jobs. Shortly after the announcement, workers at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse launched an organizing effort with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.” #AmazonAnswersNYC

Whole Foods

Oxfam‘ s Behind the Barcodes engages consumers of Whole Foods, and other large grocers to end human suffering associated with the food we eat. The campaign calls for an end to inhumane and dangerous working conditions, fair pay for workers and farmers, and safe and decent work for women. Amazon has an overall score of two percent on the Supermarkets Scorecard, including an individual score of four percent on workers, four percent on farmers and zero percent on women.

Facial Recognition Technology

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) filed a shareholder resolution with Amazon in the 2019 proxy season over the marketing of its facial recognition technology known as Rekognition. As an ICCR press release announcing the resolution noted, “‘Amazon Web Services provides cloud computing services to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and is reportedly marketing Rekognition to ICE, despite concerns Rekognition could facilitate increased immigrant surveillance and racial profiling,’ said Mary Beth Gallagher of the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment, who led the filing at Amazon. ‘Our resolution requests that Amazon prohibit sales of facial recognition technology to government agencies unless it concludes, after an evaluation using independent evidence, that the technology does not materially violate civil and human rights.’” 


• Oxfam: Behind the Barcodes: End Human Suffering Behind our Food

• The Investor Alliance for Human Rights: Guidance on Corporate Human Rights Due Diligence Related to Immigration Detention and Family Separation