Legal Intern, Manhattan Institute's Center for Legal Policy
As part of its Proxy Monitor project, the Manhattan Institute's Center for Legal Policy has released its 2012 Proxy Season: Season-End Report. The report, authored by CLP Director James Copland, spotlights union-backed shareholder proposals in the 2012 proxy season. Copland notes that labor union pension fund proposals increased in 2012, and that unions are among the most frequent proponents of proposals that would require companies to disclose their political spending. Furthermore, Copland analyzes the extent to which unions might be using the proxy process to pursue goals unrelated to increasing shareholder value:
Labor investors were also more likely than others to sponsor proposals related to political spending; such proposals are less likely designed to gain leverage over management in union negotiations but may be designed to squelch corporate political spending and lobbying that would generally be adverse to the interests of organized labor.
As in previous years, labor unions' shareholder proposals in 2012 have been unequally distributed across sectors. Companies in financial services and retail -- lightly unionized sectors that are significant public targets of union-organizing campaigns -- remain significantly more likely to be targeted by labor-backed proposals. Among companies receiving multiple proposals in these sectors this year that are also the publicly announced union targets are Bank of America, Citigroup, Rite Aid, Safeway, Wal-Mart, and Wells Fargo.
Copland has focused on labor union proxy activities in previous Proxy Monitor reports as well. Manhattan Institute's Proxy Monitor site also contains a database of shareholder proposals at Fortune 200 companies from 2006-2012.