This reference page is from Freezing in the Dark:
It’s called the “corporate campaign,” first used by labor organizer Raymond F. Rogers, Jr. in 1974. It became widely used as a substitute for strikes, which were losing their clout from declining union memberships.
The “soft power” strategy of corporate campaigns was for unions to seize the moral high ground (“what we want is right and it’s good for the community”) in a fight showing the public that the company wasn’t living up to proper codes of conduct—and finding weak points in corporate defenses.
A 1976 Rogers campaign—for the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union in a push to unionize seven plants of the sprawling J. P. Stevens textile empire—recruited other unions, churches, political and community groups, and a “power structure analysis” group, the Corporate Data Exchange.
The Data Exchange helped Rogers to reason that Stevens should be viewed by the union not as a giant corporation with 83 plants and 44,000 employees, but as 13 men (its board of directors) with widely varying motivations.
Pressuring Stevens hadn’t worked. But Rogers saw that two of Stevens’ directors, including chairman James D. Finley, also sat on the board of Manufacturers Hanover Corporation, a bank that needed public good will.
So the allies attacked Manufacturers Hanover, demanding the Stevens directors resign, and threatening to withdraw their huge pension funds. One union, the Beltmakers, Novelty and Allied Workers Union, did remove a $6.5 million pension fund just to show that the campaign was serious and deadly.
The campaign forced Finley to resign his bank directorship—more public outcry might have led Congress to make good on its rumblings about enacting unwanted labor reforms—which isolated his company and scared off other business partners.
Stevens caved in and entered negotiations. The plants were unionized.
Recruiting support from religious, social justice, and other progressive groups had unintended consequences. They began to use labor’s corporate campaign idea for their own agendas, with or without labor’s cooperation.
They became very good at it—think of Greenpeace or Rainforest Action Network unfurling banners from corporate office buildings (or from a water tower near President Bush’s Crawford ranch calling him the “Toxic Texan”).
Jarol B. Manheim wrote in his book, Biz-War and the Out-of-Power Elite: The Progressive-Left Attack on the Corporation:
Nonlabor progressives ran corporate campaigns with a difference: [S]ome of these groups would view destruction of the corporation as a social institution as beneficial to society. Others—the clear majority—take a narrower but nonetheless antagonistic view, seeing specific corporations or industries such as mining or petroleum as net evil-doers whose elimination, or at least whose reduced success, would benefit society. These ideological and programmatic activists have no inherent stake in the viability of their targets and, as a result, are less constrained in their selection of tactics. Even though they may resemble in many ways their labor-initiated cousins, because of this alternative set of motives and objectives, we can think of the campaigns waged by these nonlabor activists as anti-corporate campaigns.
Corporate campaigns have a vested interest in corporate survival.
Anti-corporate campaigns don’t.