Strategic Corporate Research
June 8-13, 2014
Despite enormous challenges in organizing and bargaining in a rapidly changing global economy, this is a time of great opportunity for and innovation by U.S. unions, labor NGOs, and their allies. With a resurgence of action among working people, there has been a new level of inventiveness in campaigning, evident in recent union organizing and bargaining campaign victories such as:
- The rising up of low-wage workers in the fast-food and retail industries, who took on the world's largest and most well-known transnational firms with the most basic demands: a living wage of $15 an hour, safe working conditions, and, for the fast-food workers, a union. They have struck by the thousands in cities across the U.S. and, in doing so, have changed the national discourse about corporate and government responsibility.
- Rank-and-file community-based campaigns in a broad range of occupations and industries that either do not fit under the NLRB format or are specifically excluded under the NLRB, ranging from car-wash workers winning first contracts in Queens, Domestic Workers United gaining employee status in New York and California and collective bargaining rights in New York, and the Model Alliance taking on some of the most powerful players in the fashion industry to win protections for child models in New York State.
- Ongoing efforts such as the UAW campaign to organize Nissan works in Canton, Mississippi, and Smyrna, Tennessee, and the joint effort between CWA in the U.S. and Verdi in Germany to organize T-Mobile employees and other Deutsche Telekom workers.
These victories came about because of a combination of grassroots rank-and-file mobilizing and leadership development, and escalating actions in the workplace and broader community—but fundamental to all these campaigns was careful strategic research.
Unfortunately, the U.S. labor movement today is facing a critical shortage of trained organizing, bargaining, and campaign staff with strategic research training who understand both corporate structure and finance and union campaign strategies. To help meet this need, the AFL-CIO asked the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations twelve years ago to develop a one-week intensive credit course on strategic corporate research for graduate students and upper-level undergraduates interested in working with the labor movement upon completion of their degrees.
The course will be available as either a non-credit course or as a 1.5-credit undergraduate course with an additional research and writing assignment. Those interested in pursuing strategic corporate research positions within unions are strongly advised to take the course for credit so that they will have the additional experience of researching an actual corporation, and have a completed strategic research report to show prospective union employers.
This course will be designed to provide a comprehensive introduction to the nature and structure of corporate ownership, finance, and power in today's economy. Through lectures, readings, case studies, and research training and exercises the class will provide students with the tools to pose and answer basic questions on the operations, structure, and industrial relations strategies of corporate America. In particular this course will focus on how these company characteristics, structures, and practices impact the firm's labor relations policies and strategies and how unions can best respond to and capitalize on these characteristics in union comprehensive organizing and bargaining campaigns.
The course will also provide in-depth hands-on training in the online and library research tools required to conduct strategic corporate research. As part of this course students will work through a series of case studies dealing with diverse firms and industries, as well as have an opportunity to conduct in-depth research on an actual firm in the context of union organizing or bargaining.
Because of the limited time available while students are here on campus, they will be sent books and readings several weeks before the class takes place to give them an opportunity to complete the readings before they arrive. In addition to reading assignments, there will be short written exercises and class presentations to be completed while the class is in session. Students taking the course for credit will be required to conduct independent research and write a paper of twenty-five to thirty pages, summarizing comprehensive corporate research and analysis for a designated company. The final paper will be due six weeks after the class and will count for fifty percent of the grade for the course.