Woke Corporate Strategy

Amazon, as typical of most tech companies, has a very progressive workforce. Unfortunately, its shareholders are not so woke.

Last month, Amazon shareholders rejected several employee-led proposals, including a plan to address climate change and a call stop selling facial recognition technology to government agencies. Other nixed proposals include a ban on hateful items in the Amazon marketplace, a review of sexual harassment policies, and a request for data on the gender wage gap.

Turns out that yielding to woke employee demands is not good corporate strategy.

Even Google, woke capital pioneer, is overruling employee protests. The company initially promised not to renew its Pentagon contract for the AI drone project, then worked around this promise by funding a new company to take over the contract. Google is also continuing work on the censored search engine for China despite political pressure. And last year, shareholders rejected an employee-backed plan to tie executive compensation to diversity goals.

Remember all those media claims that tech companies would lead the #Resistance against Trump?

Hahaha, nope. Both Microsoft and Salesforce continue to provide US Customs and Border Control with products even after employees signed an open letter demanding they stop.

The strange thing isn’t that shareholders care about profits; it’s that employees… don’t. There’s always been some tension between wage-laborers who want more money, and their bosses who want to give them less. But at the end of the day, both parties want the corporation to succeed. Employees need their employer to stick around and provide them with a career and pension.

Private sector pensions fell out of favor in the 80s, as did no-layoff policies and worker loyalty. Now the average employee tenure at top tech companies is 2.1 years. Tech employees do get stock-based compensation, but the proportion of stock versus base pay increases based on employee seniority.

(Here is a good resource for comparing tech company pay packages by seniority.)

When I worked at a publicly-traded tech company, the norm for engineers was to sell their restricted stock units as soon as they vested. It made sense because (1) our tax liability was relatively low, and (2) we needed the money. Someone in management, on the other hand, might have a high enough base pay to hold their shares and avoid the tax hit.

The result is that tech companies end up with a lot of low-level employees who don’t care about shareholder interests. The fact that these employees tend to take up social justice causes is just an artifact of them being young and stupid.

Coda: The most obvious counterpoint to all this is the fact that platforms actively censor people like Alex Jones and Laura Loomer. But I suspect that these content creators weren’t all that profitable to begin with. Amazon, Apple, and Google were quite happy to ignore petitions and celebrity pressure during the 2018 NRA boycott – NRAtv continues to stream on Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Google Chromecast. So the NRA likely has a wealthier audience than InfoWars.

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