Labor group publicizes US job export data online

A labor union offshoot group is bringing hard-to-find government data to the Internet to highlight companies that are exporting American jobs, report corporate track records on worker health and safety issues, and publicize executive salary information.

Working America, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO labor union, last week unveiled Job Tracker 2, an update of its online database of information about some 60,000 U.S. corporations.

'The whole idea of the project is to pull back the sheets on corporate America and workers' rights,' said Robert Fox, deputy director of Washington-based Working America.

The first Job Tracker was launched nearly a year ago to track U.S. job losses to foreign countries. The latest site update now provides reams of data culled through Freedom of Information Act requests for worker health and safety data as well as other corporate information, Fox said. Although the information has allegedly been available to anyone, the agencies that provide it have done little to make it easy to access, he said. The data is sometimes provided in incompatible and out-of-date data formats, making it almost impossible to use, according to the group.

When Working America asked for the data, it was provided by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on old data tapes written in Cobol, meaning a specialist had to be found who could read and transfer the data into a usable database.

'That's what OSHA calls public access,' Fox said. 'Workers have no chance to get this data. That's what they call releasing data.'