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Trailblazing Employers Saluted for Bucking Race-to-the-Bottom Labor Relations Trends
Cingular, Harley-Davidson, Costco among companies recognized

September 2, 2005

Kimberly Freeman
202-822-2127, ext. 111
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WASHINGTON, DC— While America’s workers have much to lament about the state of labor relations and corporate behavior these days, American Rights at Work has chosen this Labor Day to applaud select employers for recognizing that their workers are their most valuable assets.  The inaugural “Labor Day List: Partnerships that Work” spotlights best practices in labor-management relations that both meet the needs of workers and fulfill business objectives.

“Much of 21st century corporate America wants us to believe that cutting jobs, slashing wages and benefits, and busting unions are necessary to remain profitable in the global economy,” said David Bonior, Chair of American Rights at Work.  “But trendsetters profiled in the Labor Day List illustrate an encouraging alternative.  These employers share commendable labor relations strategies that balance profitability with workers’ rights, including the freedom to choose union representation.”

The Labor Day List’s recipients represent a cross-section of high profile, brand-name companies, along with smaller regional employers in a range of industries such as retail, healthcare, education, telecommunications, and construction.  Many embrace more stringent labor standards than those mandated by U.S. labor law.

Of the nine companies profiled, all have negotiated good contracts with their employees that offer fair wage and benefits packages.  Costco employees who belong to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), for example, earn some of the highest wages in the retail industry.  Not surprisingly, the warehouse retailer’s sales are 50 percent more per square foot, and brings in about 25 percent more revenue per employee.

Labor Day List employers share decision-making responsibilities with their employees’ unions to improve working conditions while raising productivity or service provision.  Harley-Davidson Motor Company’s commitment to keeping jobs in the U.S. is linked to its partnership with its employee-members of the International Association of Machinists and the United Steelworkers of America.  Committees of managers and union representatives team up to make many of the company’s important decisions.  This approach helped bring the FORTUNE 500 company back from the brink of bankruptcy in the 1980s. 

Five of the nine employers profiled remained neutral during union organizing campaigns or voluntarily recognized the union when employees indicated that a majority of employees desired to form one. Cingular Wireless, for example, allows workers to freely decide whether to form a union or not.  When the company acquired AT&T Wireless in 2004, it trained all former AT&T managers on its neutrality policy with the Communications Workers of America.  Both sides agree that their partnership strengthens teamwork, a necessity to maintain Cingular’s status as the industry leader in the highly competitive telecommunications field.

The practices of Labor Day List employers are especially commendable considering that more than 23,000 U.S. workers each year are illegally fired or penalized simply for supporting a union.  According to research by Cornell University professor Kate Bronfenbrenner, 75 percent of employers facing a union organizing drive hire “unionbusting” consultants, instead of respecting their employees’ wishes to form a union.  The study also found that 34 percent use bribes and favoritism to coerce their employees into opposing unions, and that 25 percent illegally fire pro-union employees.

“The Labor Day List employers prove that there are alternative models to knee-jerk, hostile labor relations,” said Bonior. 

Business and labor academics confirm the importance of the report’s findings.  Robert B. Reich, former Secretary of Labor and current Brandeis University professor, commented, “The Labor Day List shows once again that companies that treat their workers as assets to be developed do better over the long term than companies that treat their workers as costs to be cut.  Consumers, investors, and CEOs should take note.”  Jeffrey Pfeffer, Thomas D. Dee Professor of Organizational Behavior, Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, agreed, “evidence shows that corporate leaders who genuinely put workers first and work constructively with labor representatives do well even as they do good.”

Click here for a complete copy of The Labor Day List: Partnerships that Work.
For interview requests, please contact John Anthony at 202-822-2127 ext. 118, or at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .