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Protesters disrupt Amazon shareholders meeting

May 25, 2012 |  8:20 am

Amazonbox_2004

Amazon's traditionally quiet shareholders meeting in Seattle was disrupted by protesters Thursday who questioned the company's support of a conservative group, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and its treatment of workers, the Seattle Times reports.

Responding to criticism of poor working conditions in its warehouses, Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos showed an aerial photograph of an air conditioning unit. "It's not easy to retrofit an existing fulfillment center with air conditioning," he said. "We're really leading the way here."

Outside, a rally of more than 100 protesters called attention to Amazon's association with ALEC and its warehouse working conditions. The protest was organized by a worker advocacy group, Working Washington, which also called upon Amazon to pay more of its share in taxes. While Bezos explained the company's efforts to provide air conditioning in its warehouses, and Amazon has agreed to stop supporting ALEC, the tax issue remained less clearly addressed.

One critic blogging about the meeting wrote, "During the presentation, Amazon CEO Bezos said that in the last two years the company has paid $1.3 billion in taxes, including withholding and property taxes. Withholding means money collected from employees that includes Social Security and personal income taxes. Called on this later, a company spokesman hedged and obfuscated, without providing information on just how much the company pays in actual corporate taxes."

Preliminary voting results of two issues before the shareholders were announced; although the numbers were not final, it was clear that neither proposal would succeed. The first asked the company to sign on to the Carbon Discosure Project, an international nonprofit that works with companies and municipalities to track and manage carbon emissions and water use; the second asked the company to be transparent about its political contributions.

At the end of the hourlong meeting, protesters stood and began chanting; they were escorted out by police. After the noise died down, Jeff Bezos thanked the shareholders in the room for attending.

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: At an Amazon warehouse in 2004. Credit: Scott Sady / Associated Press

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