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November 18, 2005

Corporate America Beware: AFL-CIO Creates Key To Who's Been Naughty and Who's Been Nice

By Jordan Barab. Reprinted From Confined Space

Attention journalists, political activists and residents of any area near a company that employees workers -- in other words, everyone. Check this out.

The last problem we seem to have these days in this increasingly computerized world is lack of information. The real problem is knowing where to find it and how to use it. Journalists or political organizers, if they're knowledgeable about the web, can ferret out valuable information about individual companies that they may be interested in. But mere mortals often have a harder time.

Now, Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, has created Job Tracker, putting an enormous amount of valuable workplace-related information at the fingertips of anyone with a web browser. They've constructed an ingenious tool for discovering, by inputting a zip code or state, vital information about companies and how they treat their workers: OSHA citations (when, for what, how much ), layoffs, exporting jobs and violating labor laws. It even has each company's OSHA injury and illness rate, and whether the rates were high enough to earn a letter from OSHA warning them that they're on the targeted inspection list. You can also search by company name and by industry.

But enough talk, time to take her out for a test spin. We'll feed in my zip code, 20912 ... and seconds later I find that within 100 miles of my home are 17 companies that have been exporting jobs, 15 companies that have been laying off workers, 13 companies that have violated federal labor laws and 94 companies with safety and health violations.

OK, narrowing it down to the service sector, I find General Dynamics Robotic Systems in Westminster, Maryland which killed a worker in 2004 and received a $2,375 penalty. Bad.

And, in case you're interested, the CEO of the company, Nicholas D. Chabraja, "raked in $7,145,081 in total compensation including stock option grants from General Dynamics" in 2004, in addition to "another $17,807,840 in unexercised stock options from previous years."

"Awesome," as my kids would say.

Much of the information is linked to its source. For example, the OSHA violations link right to OSHA's inspection data webpage.

It's fun to think how this tool can be put to use. Workers can discover their employer's history of NLRA and OSHA violations. Journalists can instantly find if a company has "a history." Political organizers can ask Senator Porkafeller why he's getting contributions from a company that has 12 NLRB violations, 3 OSHA citations and is exporting jobs to China. Bloggers can get a few more minutes of sleep at night.

I'd suggest a few enhancements, in case anyone's asking. Adding environmental citations and toxic releases would not only attract environmentalists and residents who are wondering what's being spewed over their neighborhoods, but also highlight the connection between workplace, labor and environmental criminals.

And then maybe tying in some Google maps, with different colored pins: red for OSHA violations, yellow NLRB citations, and searching by Congressional District, and .... This could be fun.

Posted by Jordan Barab at November 18, 2005 07:04 AM