This course is for students who work or want to work in social change organizations that strive to make and keep corporations accountable, including primarily labor unions but also workers’ centers, environmental justice groups, and community-based organizations. It prepares students to engage corporations by teaching them, through hands-on techniques, how to research corporate ownership, finance, organization, and power.
The course is for students who want to learn about and contribute to the innovation taking place in union organizing and bargaining. For example, some recent successful campaigns have been multinational and multi-union. Other campaigns have drawn heavily on rank-and-file community-based action. A growing number of campaigns have targeted occupations and industries that either fall outside the NLRB model or are specifically denied legal employee status. Recent campaign victories include:
Quickly labeled the #RedForED movement, in 2018 a wave of teachers’ strikes started in Republican states such as West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Colorado. Despite being illegal, most of the strikes resulted in some kind of wage gains and national attention for teacher issues. The strike wave was not limited to Red States. Union teachers in Charter Schools in Chicago and in public schools in LA mounted major successful strikes and teachers in Denver are soon to follow.
SEIU 32BJ won an 8-year comprehensive campaign for a $19 minimum wage by 2023, for 40,000, low wage contract workers employed at New York and New Jersey airports. The victory is all the more significant because the union only represents 9000 contract workers at the three airports but was able to win wage gains for all airport workers. The campaign targeted both the airlines and the Port Authority. The victory came just a few days before an October 2, 2018, Global Day of Action.
As the print and digital news’ industry continues to go through major restructuring and employment changes, 3200 media workers organized with The News Guild (TNG/CWA) or Writers Guild of America East (WGAE) in the last 20 years. WGAE’s new units include Vice Media, Slate, Salon, Huffington Post, The Intercept, Gizmodo Media Group, and Think Progress; while TNG’s include New York Magazine, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, The Daily Hampshire Gazette, Mashable, PC Mag, Geek, and Ask Men.
These victories came about through a combination of grassroots rank-and-file mobilizing, rank-and-file leadership development, and escalating actions in the workplace and broader community. However, fundamental to all these campaigns was careful strategic research.
Because the labor movement faces a shortage of strategic researchers, this course aims to increase the supply of people who understand both how to research corporate structure and power and develop union campaign strategies. To do that, the course provides hands-on research training, teaching students how to investigate corporate ownership, finance, organization, and power. Students learn how to analyze the key relationships, profit centers, growth strategies, and key decision makers that drive a particular corporation and shape its labor relations strategy. They also learn how unions can best respond to and capitalize on these characteristics through comprehensive organizing and bargaining campaigns.
The course uses a combination of teaching methods, including lecture, readings, discussion, small-group exercises, individual research activities, group research projects, and group presentations. Students receive in-depth, hands-on training in the online and library research tools required to conduct strategic corporate research. They work through a series of case studies dealing with diverse firms and industries, and they conduct in-depth research on an actual firm in the context of union organizing or bargaining.
Regular & Advanced Tracks
There are two tracks for the course — regular and advanced. The advanced track includes an additional research and writing assignment. Given the limited time available while students are here on campus, both regular and advanced students will be sent books and a course pack several weeks before the course takes place, in order to give them an opportunity to complete all the reading before they arrive. In addition to reading assignments, there will be short written exercises and class presentations completed while the class is in session. Students taking the advanced track are 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 course ends. Any advanced-track students currently enrolled in a college or university who are interested in gaining credit for the course can work with the director to help set up independent study credit with their school.
Students interested in pursuing strategic corporate research positions within unions are encouraged to take the advanced track so they will have the additional experience of researching an actual corporation and have a completed strategic research report to show prospective union employers; but only if they fulfill the requirements for the advanced track and can commit the time to complete the paper.
We welcome international students and have several attend each year. Students from countries who need a visa will need to apply for a business visa rather than a student visa because this is not a credit program. Because of the extra time involved in the visa process, international students should complete their applications and references as soon as possible.