Union Activists' Strong-Arm Tactics
by Deneen Moore
For fans of "The Sopranos" who'll miss the fictional mob family's nefarious exploits when the HBO series ends next year, there is an antidote of sorts. Seemingly almost mimicking mob boss Tony Soprano's extortion racket, Jesse Jackson and union activists employ similar intimidation tactics to target corporations and execute self-serving agendas.
Publicly-traded corporations have become soft targets for liberal activists' political and financial ambitions. Jesse Jackson seems to rationalize his corporate shakedowns as necessary to achieve social justice. Coincidentally, it also provides him a lavish income.
Since the 1960s, Jackson has fought the alleged pervasive racism in our society. As time wore on, he began focusing on the business community. An unusual byproduct of his boycott threats and high-profile protests is that corporate executives now roll out the red carpet and open their wallets when he comes calling.
Executives often panic and scramble to decide how many zeros to put on a check if they get the slightest hint they're in Jackson's cross-hairs. As though being confronted by a schoolyard bully, management of such successful corporations such as Toyota, Citigroup, Verizon, Coca-Cola, the Federal Home Mortgage Corporation (FreddieMac) and Anheuser Busch were virtually transformed into pansies at the sight of Jackson. All of these companies have given substantial payouts to Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.
Jackson also can keep it in the family, just as the Sopranos do. In 1998, Jackson's sons were awarded what many consider to be a sweetheart deal on a lucrative Anheuser Busch distributorship in Chicago. After the sale, the elder Jackson eased off his long-running criticism of the company. It's a practice that has been repeated several times during Jackson's career. Jesse chants, "Keep hope alive!" He has indeed done so financially for himself, his family and close friends and allies.
Union activists, on the other hand, play hardball for political reasons. Their goal is to magnify their political clout by silencing corporations that oppose their agenda in the public policy debate.
For example, Big Labor launched a vicious attack against the Charles Schwab Corporation because it supported Social Security reform. The company contributed to the Cato Institute, a respected think-tank that took a leadership role in advancing Social Security reform. Schwab was also a member of the Alliance for Worker Retirement Security, a trade association that similarly supported reform. Charles Schwab himself also became a target because he personally contributed to the Club for Growth, a leading proponent of pro-growth economic policies that include Social Security reform.
Although the company wanted to enhance shareholder value through this advocacy, its participation in the public policy debate and exercise of political freedoms seemed too much of a threat to union activists. To teach Schwab and his company a lesson, union activists masquerading as shareholders disrupted the company's 2005 shareholder meeting. Activists also staged protests outside of local Schwab branches nationwide to intimidate customers and otherwise disrupt business.
Making sure Schwab understood their intentions, union activists continued their strong-arm tactics by submitting a shareholder proposal. Schwab's 2006 proxy statement included a "Political Contributions" proposal by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which claimed Schwab had a potential conflict of interest in supporting organizations promoting Social Security reform and that such support violates shareholder's trust. The proposal also sought to have the company disclose political contributions to 527 organizations.
During Schwab's 2006 shareholder meeting, Mr. Schwab opened the meeting and then took a seat while the company's general counsel presided. Normally, CEOs oversee the entire shareholder meeting. It appears that Big Labor's intimidation worked.
The usual liberal suspects - Jesse Jackson and organized labor - are undermining the very nature of free enterprise by cheating shareholders. CEOs and corporate boards need to stand up to these looters of liberty and take a stand for the true owners of the corporation - the shareholders.
Here's an even better idea: When Jesse Jackson and the union activists make an offer executives can't refuse - tell them to forgeddaboudit.
# # #
Deneen Moore is a senior fellow with the black leadership network Project 21. Comments may be sent to DMoore@nationalcenter.org.
Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints
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