Unions have moved far beyond picket lines and strikes to get the public's attention and turn up the heat on an employer, with organizers using diverse and evolving tactics.
Corporate campaigns, pioneered nearly 30 years ago, move protests to annual shareholders' meetings, executives' homes or public hearings, barrage companies with regulatory or legal disputes and organize political or community allies.
Campaigns target an employer, not its employees. It's a top-down strategy, experts say. Unions scrutinize a company's business operations, finances and often its role as corporate citizen on key issues such as economic development or healthcare for the uninsured. For example, SEIU Local 1199E-DC in the Washington-Baltimore area released a 42-page report claiming Johns Hopkins Hospital's wages hindered economic development in Baltimore and highlighting its tax-exempt status as a not-for-profit organization. The union released its report while negotiating contracts with three Baltimore hospitals, including Johns Hopkins.
Corporate campaigns also aim to build alliances outside its rank and file or potential members to build its base of support and credibility. The SEIU's Hospital Accountability Project organized uninsured patients in Illinois and networked with Cook County religious leaders, who appeared before Congress, the Illinois Senate and on national news reports, including "ABC World News Tonight," to criticize Oak Brook, Ill.-based Advocate Health Care's charity-care and debt-collection practices.