By Deborah Brewster
Published: May 4 2004 5:00 | Last Updated: May 4 2004 5:00
US unions have never achieved the same level of influence as their comrades in Europe and the decline in their membership has accelerated in recent years, from a high of 21m in 1980 to a record low of 15.7m in 2003.
But organised labour appears to be finding a toehold of influence in corporate America through an unlikely means – shareholder proxy votes.
Union pension funds such as that run by the AFL-CIO, the unions’ umbrella organisation, have never been shy in giving their views on management but are finding a more receptive audience in this year’s annual meeting season.
They have a new ally in state pension funds, which control sizeable pots of money – $2,500bn, or about 8 per cent of the US stock market – but have until now been largely acquiescent towards company management.
Fed up with three years of losses, the funds, many having union representatives on board because of high union membership among state employees, are showing their muscle.