It’s imperative that unions know as much as possible about the businesses they are seeking to organize and with which they are bargaining. Company information is necessary to determine the most effective means of placing economic pressure on a company, both in terms of organizing and bargaining tactics. A deep understanding of the company, its leaders and its culture is invaluable for a union whether representing individual members, organizing a new bargaining unit or negotiating a contract with a difficult employer. In short, knowledge is indeed power for unions dealing with their corporate partners and adversaries.
What are some of the best resources union representatives can use to find valuable company information?
Don’t overlook company websites
Company websites can be loaded with useful information, especially for larger companies. In particular, look for:
- Annual reports, which include data on company operations, financial results, officers and directors, and the company’s aspirations
- Press releases, a good source for official company positions and claims
- Biographies for management, which provide useful information about your opponents
- Lists of worksites, which are handy in planning campaign activities and reaching out to potential members
- Marketing materials, which will show you the image the company wants to project to its customers and sometimes the identities of those customers
Social media sites
Social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can be valuable sources of information on corporate entities as well as their owners, managers and supervisors. You will often find pictures and other information that can be incorporated into the union’s bargaining and/or organizing tactics.
Other sources of corporate overviews
Hoover’s has a free website that provides descriptions of thousands of companies, most of them publicly traded, but it also includes larger privately held companies. In addition, Hoover’s has a subscription service that provides more extensive information, including detailed profiles and data on products and subsidiaries.
As a credit-rating company, Dun & Bradstreet (“D&B”) collects information on how promptly companies pay their bills and a wide range of other descriptive information that can be useful to unions. D&B gets data from millions of companies, including those that are privately owned, making it a great resources for reaching companies that do not need to report to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Information filed with the government
All U.S. publicly traded companies are required to file a variety of reports with the SEC, which releases most of these filings to the public for free. The reports cover financial and operational matters and can be useful to union researchers and organizers
Useful information available from the SEC includes company’s 10-K annual reports, which are far more detailed than the annual reports generated for marketing purposes, and proxy statements, which advise on company’s annual meetings. The SEC has an online system called EDGAR (Electronic Data Gathering Analysis and Retrieval) that makes most of the agency’s public filings easy to obtain either through the SEC website or a number of third-party sites.
In addition, all U.S. corporations have to register with their state government, usually the Office of the Secretary of State, in order to receive a charter to do business, and public access is available to some of the information on file with the state. New York State has a database of corporations available online.
As every good organizer knows, the company’s employees are an invaluable source of information about how the workplace is run, the personalities of company leaders and the concerns of the workforce. While the internet and social media have been game-changing for corporate research, don’t overlook the information that can be gained by speaking with a company’s employees.
Who can help?
Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria, based in Buffalo, New York, has been a proud partner to the labor movement for more than 50 years. The firm handles all aspects of union-side labor law and labor relations, including collective bargaining, organizing drives, corporate campaigns, corporate research, arbitrations, litigation in federal and state courts and matters before the NLRB, PERB and other federal and state agencies.
The firm’s labor and employment attorneys have been named to U.S. News/Best Lawyers’ “Best Law Firms” for Labor Law—Union, Employment Law, and Employee Benefits.
Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria is a full-service law firm for labor, with attorneys specializing in workers compensation, personal injury, matrimonial law, criminal defense, wills and estates, and many other areas.