Workers of America

Corporate Responsibility

The following quote, taken from the annual report of a Fortune 500 company, explains the character of most for-profit companies: "Our primary objective is to create value for shareholders." Workers need to understand, first and foremost, that regardless of what a company's policies are concerning employees and the community, they generally exist for one purpose only -- to provide the best possible return on investment to their owners and investors. In spite of whatever political rhetoric you hear, companies are not in business to create jobs or provide benefits to their employees. Most do so only to the degree that they believe it will help improve their bottom line. In saying this, there's no implication of right or wrong, just an effort to impart an understanding of the "nature of the corporate beast."

That said, Workers of America asserts that, although it may be counter to their nature, all companies should treat their employees as valuable assets upon which the success of the company depends. As "stakeholders," employees deserve the commitment of their employers to fair compensation and a reasonable degree of job security. To support the equitable treatment of employees, Workers of America subscribes to the five principles of corporate citizenship outlined by the U.S. Department of Labor:

  • Family-Friendly Workplace.
  • Employers have a responsibility to create and maintain workplaces that allow workers to be both productive workers and caring and responsible family members. Some examples of family-friendly policies that support this dual demand include flexible work schedules, job sharing, parental leave, subsidized day care, time off for parent-teacher meetings and sick-child days. Such family-friendly policies not only help working families, but also benefit employers by attracting the best workers, decreasing turnover and absenteeism and improving productivity and morale.

  • Economic Security
  • Companies should provide all of their employees with the basic security represented by a living wage and health care and pension benefits. This commitment can also be a wise business strategy, creating a competitive advantage for companies vying for a world-class work force.

  • Investment In Employees
  • Investments in employees are at least as important and profitable as investments in plant and equipment. Companies that ensure broad opportunities for education and training for basic skills, new skills and career advancement have acknowledged this fact and reaped the rewards.

  • Partnership With Employees
  • Greater worker involvement in the work process and work product make corporations more productive and provide workers with a greater sense of commitment and security. All employees, management and front-line alike, should have a voice in the workplace and share the burdens and benefits of good times and bad. A number of innovative structures and programs strengthen these roles for workers. Opportunities to share in the good times can be had through profit sharing programs, employee stock ownership plans or bonus incentives. And if companies are forced to shed units and workers to stay in business, the responsible ones offer alternatives to soften the blow, such as outplacement services, severance payments and new training.

  • Safe and Secure Workplace
  • Employers are responsible for protecting the health and safety of their employees in the workplace. This is most effectively met through management commitment and employee involvement. Failure to provide a safe workplace can lead to injuries and fatalities, and injuries alone have cost the economy more than $110 billion a year.

    One important measure of corporate responsibility is downsizing. A series of recent studies indicated that the majority of corporate downsizings fail to have a positive long term impact on the corporation's bottom line. In spite of the growing evidence against their benefit, downsizings continue to be used often by corporate CEOs who ignore the devastating effect on the workers and families who are downsized. Check out the Layoff Scoreboard for those companies who have earned a place in the "Downsizing Hall of Shame."

    Last updated: November 1997

    Return to Summary of Worker Issues page.

    Return to Workers of America home page.