Ed Durkin, a union official, is on a mission.

He says that board members at U.S. corporations who are seeking re-election should be required to win more than 50% of the vote to retain their seats.

His group's campaign is just one of the many shareholder initiatives that will be debated across the land this spring as public companies prepare for annual meeting season.

Durkin has got his work cut out for him.

Since the 1930s, directors have managed to stay on their boards with barely any shareholder support. Technically, a director can even vote for himself and that's enough to get re-elected.

So Durkin, who works for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, is using the annual proxy season that is under way to take a company-by-company approach to change the status quo.

Of 61 so-called "majority vote" proposals that Durkin has submitted at U.S. corporations for 2010, 35 have been withdrawn after he reached settlements with the companies.

"With a majority-vote standard, companies will be more attentive to investors," Durkin said.

This year, about 25 of Durkin's proposals are expected to come up for a vote, and among the targeted companies are Occidental Petroleum Corp. (OXY), Vornado Realty Trust (VNO) and Equity Residential Properties Trust (EQR).

The proposals submitted by Durkin and other similarly minded labor-backed investor groups would require directors to win more than 50% of the votes of participating investors in uncontested elections. A director who falls short would have to offer to resign, but their board could keep them aboard.