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What Your Boss Doesn’t Want You to Know, and Where to Find It

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Tom Juravich | Labor Center | UMass Amherst

Given the wealth of information available online, conducting research on your employer is more possible than ever—and more important than ever, as firms become more complex and globalized.

There’s no reason we should ever begin bargaining or start an organizing campaign without a strong sense of who the employer is, how it generates its profit, where it is growing, who its decision-makers are, and where it is most vulnerable. This information is much easier to find than most people think.

More information is available on companies that trade on one of the stock exchanges, but there is still plenty of information on privately held firms and nonprofits. And this approach is relevant for firms both large and small, across a wide variety of sectors.

General Internet searching is not enough.

The mistake that many first-time researchers make is to jump onto Google and start looking for information about the company.

While general Internet searching can be helpful, it’s not a very efficient way to do corporate research. It’s easy to drown in all the information that’s out there, and what you’re finding is what the search engine has indexed for you. Plus, companies manipulate what shows up first on a general Internet search. Often you have to weed through hundreds of pages of marginal information before you get to real substantive information on your company.

You need a framework to direct your research.

To avoid getting overwhelmed and quitting, you need to know what questions you are trying to answer. And rather than hunting around, you also need to know the best places to find those answers.

That’s why we built the Strategic Corporate Research website (strategiccorporateresearch.org), a free resource to help labor, community, and environmental activists take a look inside the corporate world. It starts by providing a framework to direct your research.

The site lays out 24 questions to guide your investigation into the command and control of a firm, its operations, and its outside stakeholders. These include: Who are the stockholders? Who is on the board of directors? Who are their major suppliers and customers? What is their health and safety and environmental record?

Focus on primary documents.

For each of these questions we provide the key websites where you can find answers. Whenever possible, we focus on primary documents.

It might be tempting to rely on a website that gathers the information for you, for instance on CEO salary, but you are going to find the most accurate and up-to-date information in the primary documents that the company files with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). We provide a number of videos with screenshots that help first-timers navigate through websites including the SEC, OSHA, OpenSecrets (which provides information on the political donations of your employer), and many more.

Build a diverse research team.

Build a diverse team in your local or your workplace to conduct research on your employer. Include people from different shifts and different jobs; make sure women and people of color are represented. You want to demonstrate that the research team represents the whole union, not just a select few. This is critical for other members to see the information you gather as credible and actionable.

If one or more individuals have some prior research training, it’s great for them to step up—but they should take a mentoring approach so that everyone on the team is learning new skills. The more people we can bring along with us, the more capacity we have. This is a great way for rank-and-file members to become more involved in the union.

Adopt a brainstorming attitude.

It is critical to adopt an inclusive brainstorming attitude when conducting your research. We provide a Google document on the website (bit.ly/SCR24questions) which allows you to create your own copy of the 24 questions to guide your research. Break up the questions, work in small teams, and put all the information up there.

You never know how what you find out might connect with other pieces of information or how it can be used in the future. There will be time later to sort out contradictory information.
This process encourages everyone on the committee to participate and is critical in building your capacity as a team.

Analyze as you go along.

Don’t just gather information, but analyze it as you go along. Look for connections and for information that confirms what you’ve found.

For example, you may have found that two new board members come from a sector which you have already identified as a growth area for the company. This confirms that your research is correct and that the company is moving in this direction.

Work through what might be inconsistent or contradictory. This often comes up when looking at financials that get reported over several years. Make sure you are using the most up-to-date numbers.

Keep your campaign in mind.

It is easy to get excited about all the information you are gathering. You may have discovered that the company was fined by the Environmental Protection Agency or a key board member has been named in a number of lawsuits and judgments.

But the goal of strategic corporate research is not just to gather information, but to use this information to build a strong campaign and win. Be careful not to get sidetracked. You may have found some juicy information on the CEO, for example, but remember campaigns are rarely won by focusing on one issue. Keep researching and develop multiple points of leverage.

Our website provides a number of charts and resources to help you make your research actionable and plan an escalating campaign to bring pressure on the strategic targets you identify.

For example, you may have discovered that one division of your employer is the most profitable, so you shift the focus of your campaign to that part of the firm. Or you may have identified a highly vulnerable board member, so you design tactics to escalate against him. Take the time and work collaboratively to shape a multifaceted campaign building on all that you have learned.

Build new muscles.

If this kind of research is new to your local, it will take some time to build the skills and integrate them into the life of your union. But with some careful attention and teamwork you will be surprised how fast rank-and-file members and leadership can gather and use basic corporate information in both bargaining and organizing.

It’s not enough just to put this research team together as you prepare for contract expiration. Once it’s operating, the team should continue to grow and build its capacity between contracts to put the local in an even stronger position for the next round of bargaining or your next organizing campaign.

This blog originally appeared at Labor Notes on May 24, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About the author: Tom Juravich is a professor of labor studies and sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


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Wage gap between blacks and whites is larger today than it was 40 years ago

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It’s near impossible for black Americans to achieve parity with their white counterparts in the labor market, according to two new studies which show that they are underpaid and discriminated against throughout the hiring process.

Earlier in September, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco reported that the wage gap between black and white Americans is increasing, based on findings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 1979, the average black American man made 80 cents on the dollar to what a white American man made; in 2016, he made just 70 cents on the dollar. There was a similar widening in wage gap for black and white women, who made 95 cents for every dollar an average white woman made in 1979, but only 82 cents in 2016.

“The findings point to persistent shortfalls in labor market outcomes for black men and women… that cannot be fully explained by differences in age, education, job type of location,” the report read. “Especially troubling is the growing unexplained portion of the divergence in earnings from blacks relative to whites.”

Economists are worried about the growing “unexplained portion of divergence,” which has grown from 8 percentage points in 1979 to 21 percentage points in 2016. The researchers note that factors such as “discrimination, differences in school quality, or differences in career opportunities – are likely to be playing a role in the persistence and widening of these gaps.”

But these wage disparities don’t even account for another major problem facing black Americans: getting a job in the first place. In another recent studyresearchers from Harvard, Northwestern University and the Institute for Social Research in Norway have found there has been no change in the level of hiring discrimination in more than 25 years.

The study sent out resumes with similar levels of education and experience, the only difference being the name – some resumes had stereotypically black and Latinx names while others had stereotypically white names. As a second part of the study, applicants with similar qualifications (but of different races) went in to apply for a job in person.

Researchers concluded that, on average, a white job applicant was 36 percent more likely to receive a callback for an opening than an equally qualified African-American candidate. White job seekers also received 24 percent more callbacks than equally qualified Latinx candidates. “These findings lead us to temper our optimism regarding racial progress in the United States,” the study read. “At one time it was assumed that the gradual fade-out of prejudiced beliefs, through cohort replacement and cultural change, would drive a steady reduction in discrimination treatment. At least in the case of hiring discrimination against African-Americans, this expectation does not appear to have been born out.”

These two studies come only a week after new Census Bureau data showed the grim inequality that persists in American society. While there was an overall increase in median wealth for Americans, African-American and Latinx families still lagged far behind. An average white families now earns around $65,041, compared with $47,675 for a Hispanic family and $39,490 for an African-American family.

This article was originally published at ThinkProgress on September 18, 2017. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Luke Barnes is a reporter at ThinkProgress. He previously worked at MailOnline in the U.K., where he was sent to cover Belfast, Northern Ireland and Glasgow, Scotland. He graduated in 2015 from Columbia University with a degree in Political Science. He has also interned at Talking Points Memo, the Santa Cruz Sentinel and Narratively.


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Prescription Drug Spending is Consuming a Bigger Share of Wages

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Prescription drugs are a large and growing share of national income. While it is generally recognized that drugs are expensive, many people are unaware of how large a share of their income goes to paying for drugs because much of it goes through third party payers, specifically insurance companies and the government.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) produce projections of national expenditures on prescription drugs through 2025, along with historical estimates dating back to 1960. As shown below, prescription drug spending from 1960 to 1980 was equivalent to about one percent of total wage and salary income. In the years leading up to the passage of the Bayh-Dole act in 1980, wage income was rising faster than spending on prescription drugs. As a result, the share of wages spent on prescription drugs was actually falling, reaching a low in 1979 of 0.86%.

However, after 1980, prescription drug spending rose rapidly relative to wage income. The ratio of drug spending to wages rose each year from 1980 to 2007. In 2007 wage growth finally outpaced drug expenditures, with the ratio again increasing in the Great Recession. By 2010, prescription drug spending had climbed above four percent of wage income.

The three percent of annual wage income lost to higher drug spending over the past 40 years makes a big difference to working individuals and families. This increase in annual spending averages out to roughly $2,400 per household. CMS projections, combined with projections on wage income growth from the Congressional Budget Office, suggest that spending on prescription drugs will increase further through 2025. This ratio is expected to exceed five percent by 2024.

While an aging population has been a factor increasing spending on drugs, demographics alone cannot explain the sharp increase in prescription drug spending. Inflation-adjusted prescription drug spending per household has increased more than eightfold since 1980, far outpacing any demographic trend surrounding age. The share of people over age 65 in the population has increased from 9.2% in 1960 to 14.8% in 2015. This can at most explain a small part of the increase in spending on drugs over this period.

It is important to recognize that the high cost of drugs is the result of a conscious policy decision to give drug companies monopolies in the form of patents and other forms of exclusive marketing rights. Without these protections drugs would almost invariably be cheap, likely costing on average less than one fifth as much as they do now. Even worse, the perverse incentives resulting from patent monopolies distort the research process and can lead drug companies to misrepresent evidence on the safety and effectiveness of their drugs.

 This blog was originally published at CEPR on June 27, 2017. Reprinted with permission. 
About the Authors: Dean Baker co-founded CEPR in 1999. His areas of research include housing and macroeconomics, intellectual property, Social Security, Medicare and European labor markets. He is the author of several books, including Rigged: How Globalization and the Rules of the Modern Economy Were Structured to Make the Rich RicherGetting Back to Full Employment: A Better Bargain for Working PeopleThe End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets ProgressiveThe United States Since 1980Social Security: The Phony Crisis (with Mark Weisbrot), and The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer. His blog, “Beat the Press,” provides commentary on economic reporting. He received his B.A. from Swarthmore College and his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Michigan. Brian Dew holds a B.A. in Psychology and Organizational Sciences from the George Washington University and an M.A. in Economics from American University. His previous research has focused on international trade, network analysis, and open-economy macroeconomics, while his current research interests include domestic trade, employment, and monetary policies. Brian worked previously for the International Monetary Fund.


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Trump targets USDA with some of the deepest proposed budget cuts

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President Donald Trump ran on a platform of giving a voice to rural voters who felt forgotten by politicians in Washington. But his proposed budget, released on Tuesday, proposes deep cuts to crucial Department of Agriculture programs that many rural residents, and farmers, depend on.

The budget proposes an almost 21 percent cut to the USDA, the third-largest percentage cut proposed for any agency, behind the Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department. It would cut crop insurance?—?which pays farmers for losses due to extreme weather, or compensates farmers for loss if prices are higher than guaranteed at the time of harvest?—?by 36 percent, far deeper cuts than were proposed under the Obama administration. And it proposes to “streamline” conservation programs, while eliminating the rural development program aimed at bringing infrastructure, technology, and utilities to rural communities.

“The Budget Proposal guts the USDA by 21 percent and makes further cuts to programs, all of which will leave rural and urban farmers, low-income families, and taxpayers more vulnerable,” Mike Lavender, senior Washington representative for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in an emailed statement.

The proposed budget zeroes out programs like the USDA’s Farm Safety program, which seeks to reduce farm sector injuries by training workers in how to properly use farming equipment. It also eliminates programs like the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s watershed protection projects, which helps both protect sensitive watersheds from environmental degradation, like soil runoff, and helps rural communities respond to natural disasters like floods.

“Agriculture is a risky business, and we absolutely need an adequate safety net for farmers while also providing incentives that will accelerate adoption of conservation practices,” Callie Eideberg, senior policy manager for the Environmental Defense Fund, told ThinkProgress via email. “Eliminating any program that helps farmers increase resiliency and protect natural resources is a shortsighted decision that can have harmful consequences.”

Key research programs aimed at helping farmers adapt to the changing climate?—?like programs that offer grants to farmers interested in experimenting with innovative conservation techniques?—?would also face deep cuts under the proposed budget. More than $33 million would be cut from agricultural research programs like the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), which provides grants for agricultural sciences, and the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program (SARE), which helps farmers fund conservation projects.

“The budget would slash funding for key agricultural research and conservation programs, undermining the ability of farmers to sustain their land and their livelihoods for the future,” Lavender said.

Cuts to USDA research programs would hardly be the first time the Trump administration showed science to be a low priority for the agency. Trump is expected to name Sam Clovis, a conservative talk-show host that denies the scientific consensus on climate change, to be the USDA’s undersecretary of research, education and economics. That would put Clovis in charge of the USDA’s entire scientific mission, including research programs aimed at helping farmers respond to climate change. Current Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue also denies the scientific consensus on climate change, calling climate science “a running joke among the public” in a 2014 op-ed published in the National Review.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Trump budget does not specify what will become of one of the Obama administration’s signature climate-focused programs within the USDA, the regional climate hubs, which connect farmers with on-the-ground information about climate science and adaptation in their region. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney did say on Tuesday, however, that the budget at large was aimed at decreasing the “crazy” climate spending of the Obama administration.

This article was originally published at ThinkProgress.org on May 23, 2017. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Natasha Geiling is a reporter at ThinkProgress. Contact her at ngeiling@americanprogress.org.


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New Research Meta-Analysis Makes Compelling Case For Nondiscrimination Protections

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Our guest blogger is Crosby Burns, Research Associate for LGBT Progress.

Today the Center for American Progress, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law released a comprehensive database of research documenting the immediate need for federal policies that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This database includes nearly 40 documents totaling 680 pages of research from the ACLU, the Center for American Progress, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Gay and Lesbian Task ForceFreedom To Work, and the Williams Institute.

The findings of the research contained in this database are consistent and conclusive: LGBT workplace discrimination is a pervasive and persistent problem that requires an immediate solution. Additionally, this research establishes a strong business case for workplace nondiscrimination laws and policies, examines the potential impact of an LGBT nondiscrimination executive order for federal contractors, and highlights strong public and voter support for workplace fairness.

Given these realities, Congress should pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and President Obama should sign an executive order requiring federal contractors to have LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policies. These actions would bring quick relief to the hundreds of thousands of LGBT workers who face employment discrimination in our country today.

Nondiscrimination-Laws-Map

This blog originally appeared in Think Progress on May 7, 2012. Reprinted with permission.


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New Labor Research Center Opens at GWU

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Ravi BakhruLast Thursday night I had the privilege of being a part of the opening at a new research center in the George Washington University’s Estelle and Marvin Gelman Library. Officially named the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Labor History Research Center, the IBT’s collection of historic documents will be permanently housed here in an effort to encourage more study of organized labor.

As a result of this partnership, much of IBT’s historic document collection will now be accessible by scholars who have an interest in understanding the history and impact of organized labor in the 20th century. Among the more notable items are a wire recorder, believed to be one of the few remaining in the world, and a photo of Jimmy Hoffa and Martin Luther King Jr.

I was asked to provide some perspective as a student at GW, and found myself speaking before GW President Knapp and IBT President James P. Hoffa. Being involved in the education system for my entire life, I was all too pleased to provide such a perspective.

It seems obvious that IBT and organized labor has played a prominent role in the economic, political, and social development of our country. You can see its tangible effects in laws that protect worker safety and provide benefits like workers compensation and health care. And the laws are indicative of more than temporary acquiescence to organized labor. As a people, we enjoy a deep connection to our labor force that is constantly made stronger by our appreciation for their work and sacrifice. This connection was not made overnight, and it has not been an easy road traveled.

This is why IBT’s partnership with The George Washington University is essential. The resulting research center will not only provide us with an understanding of our past, but also supply a yellow brick road for our future. Primary documents in this collection will now be made available to students and scholars alike in an effort to broaden our perspective on a variety of topics. Classes of politics, economics, labor history, and women’s studies will all benefit from research done at this center.

A large portion of IBT’s collection has been transferred to the research center, but both IBT and GW are searching for more documents and records to add to the collection. Years in the making, the research center should prove to be a preeminent source of labor history. For more information you can visit the GWU press release here, and see the Gelman library homepage here.

library

About The Author: Ravi Bakhru is a third year law student at George Washington University. He currently works as an intern for Workplace Fairness, and has an interest in pursuing labor and employment  law in the future. To get in touch with Ravi, you can email him at Ravi.Bakhru@gmail.com.


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