Category Archives: Social Responsibility

What Oil and Gas Companies Extract from the American Public

Source: Jeff Hooke and Steve Wamhoff, Citizens for Tax Justice, July 9, 2010

From the summary:
A new report from Citizens for Tax Justice describes the biggest tax subsidies enjoyed by oil and gas companies and explains that these subsidies do nothing to encourage energy independence or cleaner energy.

In the wake of the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the public and the media have turned their attention to some of the subsidies provided through the tax code to BP, the corporation that leased the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon drilling platform. The truth is that oil and gas companies have for years received a bonanza of unjustified tax breaks that serve only to boost profits for their shareholders.

The oil and gas industry is also resisting any taxes that would allow it to pay for its own messes. One proposal under consideration by Congress is an increase in the tax used to fund the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which is currently 8 cents per barrel. Another is reinstating the Superfund Tax which expired in 1995. Both proposals have been met with furious opposition by the petroleum industry, which has spent a reported $340 million on lobbyists in the last 2-1/2 years.

Addressing the Underemployment of Persons with Disabilities: Recommendations for Expanding Organizational Social Responsibility

Source: Karen S. Markel and Lizabeth A. Barclay, Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, 3 September 2009
(subscription required)

From the abstract
The underemployment of persons with disabilities continues to be a societal problem; many persons with disabilities have difficulty securing and maintaining employment. This difficulty contributes to the relatively higher rates of poverty among persons with disabilities as well as their underutilization as productive members of society. This research examines factors that contribute to this underemployment problem. Based on this examination, we develop questions organizations must consider for addressing the problem. These questions are based on creating working relationships for persons with disabilities at an individual level that may be an extension of an organization’s corporate social responsibility program. Individuals with disabilities have a right to obtain and maintain successful employment opportunities; this research outlines the factors at play and provides suggestions for employers to consider in addressing this social problem.

Labor Rights as Human Rights?

Source: Kevin Kolben, Virginia Journal of International Law, Vol. 50, No. 2, 2009

From the abstract:
A large and growing number of labor law and industrial relations scholars have argued that labor rights ought to be understood and conceptualized as fundamental human rights. In a parallel movement, a growing number of labor rights organizations have begun to deploy human rights discourse and methods, while some international human rights scholars and organizations have also, although to a lesser degree, begun to direct some of their attention to questions of labor rights – an issue long left to unions and labor law scholars.

Few scholars have challenged this move to human rights discourse, however. In this essay I argue that there are important and salient differences between labor rights and human rights, not only in how these rights operate conceptually, but also and perhaps equally importantly, in how these rights are actualized by their respective movements. I argue that the strategies, politics, culture, and ideologies that inform human rights and much of the U.S. human rights establishment are quite at odds with those of labor rights movements, and a hard human rights turn by labor rights advocates risks eviscerating the fundamental commitments to economic justice and worker democracy in which the labor rights movement is grounded.

2009 Labor Day List: Responsible Business Practices in a Tough Economy

Source: American Rights at Work, 2009

In the American Rights at Work Education Fund’s fifth annual Labor Day List, we recognize successful partnerships between employers and their employees’ labor unions that are working well in an uncertain global economy.

Employers showcased in this year’s report walk the walk when it comes to respecting their own workers’ rights, and now they are going a step further by standing up on behalf of all U.S. workers. Every business profiled in this year’s report has spoken out on the need for meaningful labor law reform. By supporting the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation making it easier for workers to choose to form a union, a new generation of visionary employers is laying the foundation for the financial well-being of workers and businesses alike.

Making City Hall Sweat: Using Procurement Power for Worker Rights

Source: Bjorn Claeson and Eric Dirnbach, New Labor Forum, Vol. 18 no. 1, Winter 2009
(subscription required)

Los Angeles passed a sweatfree procurement ordinance in November 2004, covering the city’s estimated $3 million worth of apparel procurement each year. Effective enforcement began two years later when the city hired the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) to study its apparel procurement and undertake investigations of factories in their apparel supply chain. The WRC, a labor rights group founded in 2000 to investigate factories that produce university-licensed apparel, now also works in the area of public apparel procurement. Gathering information about the city’s uniform suppliers, WRC investigators learned about severe worker rights violations in a factory called New Wide Garment in Cambodia, a contractor which employed 1,400 workers and manufactured uniforms for Williamson-Dickie, which supplied them to Los Angeles through a local vendor. The WRC found violations of numerous provisions of the city ordinance’s Contractor Code of Conduct, including discrimination against pregnant workers, restrictions on workers’ access to toilets and health clinics, and the inappropriate dismissal of a worker who was exercising her freedom of association rights. Pressure from the city led the contractor to reinstate the fired worker and make several positive changes in its policies that corrected these violations. Los Angeles also ceased purchasing Rocky Brands products when the company refused to respond to allegations of worker rights violations in contractor facilities in China. This is the first known instance of a city canceling a contract due to violations of sweatfree purchasing rules.

Anti-sweatshop activists have long engaged in solidarity campaigns with workers, targeting corporations that provide apparel for universities or retail customers. But now cities like Los Angeles are a new partner in this fight against sweatshops. Activists, in alliance with workers and unions like UNITE HERE, have succeeded in many locales to raise awareness of the global sweatshop problem and how responsible public purchasing practices can improve standards in an apparel industry where the race to the bottom is the norm. UNITE HERE, the principal North American apparel and textile workers union, has been closely involved in this campaign as part of its fight against global apparel sweatshop conditions and it recognizes that raising global labor standards in the industry helps both foreign and domestic workers, including its own members. Over the last decade, many states, cities, counties, and school districts have become concerned about the sweatshop labor conditions under which the apparel they purchase is produced, passing similar ordinances designed to help improve working conditions. This growing movement for ethical procurement is about to take another important step.

The Moral Responsibility of Business to Protect Homosexuals from Discrimination ion the Workplace

Source: Paul Lansing and Cory Cruser, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 35 no. 1, Summer 2009

The US government, through legislation, has provided protection for certain classes of citizens to prevent discrimination in the workplace. Among these protected classes are race, religion, gender, age, disability, etc. However, sexual orientation is not presently covered by the federal government. To fill this void, management should take it upon itself to provide protection in the workplace for the gay community.

Ethics, Chocolate and Beer

Source: Mary Anne Craft, Library Worklife, Volume 6, No. 5, May 2009
(subscription required)

We all deal in business ethics so often that we don’t give it much thought. However, in this time of bailouts, bonuses and economic mess-ups, when ethics tend to attract scrutiny, it is refreshing to stop and note those who early on gave ethics their full commitment. Though the producers of chocolate and beer are rarely given as case studies in ethics, the stories of Hershey Chocolate’s founder Milton Hershey, and the Trapist brewers in Westmalle, Belgium, provide excellent examples of ethical business practices.

Regulatory Effects and Strategic Global Staffing Profiles: Beyond Cost Concerns in Evaluating Offshore Location Attractiveness

Source: Stan Malos, Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, Published online: 25 April 2009
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The practice of offshoring–staffing all or part of a business outside the home country–has proliferated to such an extent that the question for most multinational corporations (MNCs) is where, not if, some or all of its labor forces should be located beyond geopolitical borders. It remains an open question, however, where and under what conditions the hoped-for advantages of offshore staffing are best realized. While cost savings continue to play the major role for most companies, both quality and availability of worker skills and administrative and regulatory contexts of labor markets have increasingly influenced global staffing decision processes. This paper has two purposes: to examine the extent to which employment laws and other regulatory factors can impact–beyond cost concerns alone–the decision where to offshore, and to offer a methodology for developing attractiveness profiles that can help governments, service providers, and MNCs evaluate and improve the match between staffing needs and labor market characteristics. By examining financial considerations in conjunction with administrative and regulatory effects, the parties can better manage ongoing expansion of offshore staffing arrangements beyond more established locations such as India, China, and Malaysia. Strategic implications of a trend toward nearshoring–relocating offshore operations closer to or within the home country–are also discussed.

The Responsibility Paradox

Source: Gerald F. Davis, Marina V.N. Whitman, & Mayer N. Zald, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2008

With operations scattered around the globe, the modern corporation is a different animal from its predecessors. Yet the notion of corporate social responsibility (CSR) has not changed much over the years. As a result, just as stakeholders are holding corporations more responsible for their actions, corporations understand their responsibilities to stakeholders even less. To resolve this paradox, firms must update their CSR practices. The authors predict that the European Union will set the tone for product and environmental regulations, the United States will lead on governance guidelines, and international NGOs will drive human rights and labor laws.