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Rep. Meeks Urges Amazon to Commit to Diversity & Inclusion Pact for NY HQ

December 4, 2018

New York –U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (NY-5), National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial, and New York Urban League President and CEO Arva Rice issued a today letter urging CEO Jeff Bezos to commit to a comprehensive and specific diversity and inclusion plan for its New York headquarters

Text of the Letter:

Mr. Jeffrey Bezos
Chairman and CEO
410 Terry Ave. North
Seattle, WA 98109-5210

Sent by email & FedEx

Mr. Bezos:

Amazon's decision to locate a new headquarters in the diverse borough of Queens in New York City presents an unprecedented opportunity for both the city and for Amazon.

This project should not proceed without a firm commitment from Amazon to make sure New Yorkers from every background benefit from this decision, especially given the vast commitment of public resources from the city and state.

It would be completely unacceptable for Amazon to replicate Seattle's currently existing overwhelmingly white male workforce structure here in New York City.

New York City and the borough of Queens are the most racially and ethnically diverse urban area in the entire world. There are nearly 180 languages spoken in its public schools. The diversity of New York has the potential to fuel unprecedented innovation and creativity as Amazon embarks on a new phase of growth. But this won't happen without a comprehensive and intentional plan for diversity and inclusion. Amazon New York must look like New York, and we're ready to help Amazon achieve this.

As such, we respectfully request that Amazon enter into a binding Memorandum of Understanding encompassing both Community Benefits and Diversity and Inclusion across the areas of governance, personnel, procurement and philanthropy.

While our request is cordial, be assured that the matter before us is urgent.

We note Amazon's recent decision to employ the so-called Rooney Rule, requiring candidates of color to be interviewed, when filling vacancies on its Board of Directors.

Yet the Board remains without a single member of color.

According to recent reports, there are no African Americans or Latinos among Amazon's senior executives. This is appalling and inconsistent with 21st Century America.

The National Urban League's State of Black America report for 2018, themed "Leading the Digital Revolution," found that a very small percentage of Amazon's headquarters-based operation was comprised of African Americans or Latinos.

In the 15 years since the NFL adopted the Rooney Rule, the number of Black head coaches has risen from three to eight, or from 9% to 25%. In a league where more than 70% of players are Black, the rule has been a good first step, but more can be done.

We know first-hand how a thoughtful and specific diversity and inclusion plan can enhance and enrich a corporate culture. In 2010, Comcast signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Urban League and other civil rights groups, pledging to increase diversity among its workforce, programming and other aspects of business.

By 2017, 70 percent of those hired by Comcast and NBC Universal identified as people of color. Of its total 164,000 employees, 61 percent classified themselves as people of color.

Inspired by the success of the Comcast MOU, Charter Communications has signed a similar agreement in 2016. Within three months of signing the MOU, three people of color were added to Charter's Board of Directors.

The National Urban League, New York Urban League and local elected officials stand ready to work with Amazon to craft a mindful, comprehensive and specific blueprint for building a dynamic and diverse workforce in the most dynamic and diverse city in the world.

We look forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely yours,

Marc H. Morial

President and CEO, National Urban League

The Honorable Gregory Meeks

5th Congressional District, New York

Arva Rice

President and CEO, New York Urban League