Friday, July 2, 2010

Why Should Unions Care About the Online Labor Movement?

I was delving into the Digg and Squidoo sites just now. If you're not familiar with them, think of Digg as a 21st century e-version of the "recommendation letter" ( that's also informative. You see little Digg buttons or widgets all over the web. The idea is that if you read something that you like/love/support you click on the Digg button (usually at the top or bottom of the article). The Digg site tracks the number of Diggs each article gets, and as the number of Diggs grows, so does the prominence of that information in search engines, like Google.  There are many labor-related items to be searched via Digg.

Squidoo is different. It is similar to Digg in that it's content can be provided by anyone by developing a "lense". Here is their explanation of the site. "Squidoo is the popular publishing platform and community that makes it easy for you to create "lenses" online. Lenses are pages, kind of like flyers or sign posts or overview articles, that gather everything you know about your topic of interest--and snap it all into focus. Like the lens of a camera, your perspective on something." ( The user gets a complete overview of a specific topic that includes an article/summary along with any and all relevant links that support it. It is widely popular, and according to the site, gets close to a million hits per day.

So, I proceeded to search union-related terms.  Union. Labor movement.  Labor union.  Trade union.  Guess what the two most popular results were?  One lens about Jimmy Hoffa, and another that was anti-labor.  There was surprisingly very little on the site about labor unions.  Yet the one lens that came up time and time again was anti-union.  What's wrong with this picture?

I also tested Urban Dictionary ( for labor-related entries.  For those of you that aren't familiar with it, this is a site that definitely appeals to a younger crowd.  It is an online dictionary of all words and phrases slang, and anyone can submit definitions.  A few examples include: 

  • Aluminum Digger - A younger version of a gold digger.
  • Thanksgiving Beard - An unintentional beard started over the 4 day Thanksgiving weekend, where you're too lazy to shave it off monday morning. Usually continues until Christmas or New Year's Day. Also known as a Holiday Beard.
  • Textpectation - The anticipation one feels when waiting for a response to a text message.
It should be pointed out that many of the entries can be considered raunchy, but there are many that are not slang.  When I searched the word "union" there were four pages of results, but the majority were anti-union.  However, the pro-labor view was represented more here than on Squidoo.  You may think this site is ridiculous, but it has a huge following by teens and young adults.  

My point is this.  There is an online labor movement as well as offline.  It's out there, it's growing, but the non-union proponents are online as well, and much more vocal.  Labor leaders, whether you're ready for it or not, the internet is yet another battlefield that needs your troops on the front line to protect and advance us forward.  You need to strongly encourage your members to help spread the word online, to comment on articles and blogs that warrant a union viewpoint.  (For example, check out this article, "Labor Agreements Make No Sense," posted last weekend on, and read the comments in particular.)  Labor organizations at all levels need to get involved, because here, online, we have access to untold numbers of the U.S. population that we don't traditionally have.  Think about it for a second and let that sink in.  We need to see the internet for what it is, and what opponents have already figured out.  It's an open mic!  We can recruit new members! Attract new contractors and employers!  Voice our opinions in so many different online communities that it's mind boggling!  And think about this.  Can you imagine how the internet could have a huge influence over organizing campaigns?

Don't get me wrong.  I don't think that the web is the answer to all of our problems by any means.  However, it might just be the key to exerting enough unbalanced force that the pendulum can begin to swing the other way.  That won't happen, though, unless every union organization from Seattle to Miami understands this concept and takes steps to get involved in the online labor movement.  Locals, I'm talking to you, because you can't expect the internationals to do it for you.  An online labor movement is a grassroots effort, just like every other campaign we're involved with.  It's simply a new component of our traditional efforts - with the potential of being a very, very powerful one.  There is certainly pro-labor activity online.  We're slowly seeing more and more locals with their own websites, there are union fan pages on Facebook and we're tweeting to a degree, but not nearly enough.  

I have one more point before I call it a night.  Internationals, you're doing pretty well.  Most of you are out there with good websites (although some are better than others, but that's a blog post for another day), you're tweeting, etc. - but you have to help your locals get to where you are.  I urge you to start thinking about developing a component of your local leadership training and organizing curriculum that addresses new media outreach tactics: Email, text messaging, blogging, quality website content and design, social network websites.  Give your locals the tools and training to ensure that they grow familiar with all of these mediums.  These all define "new media" and it is imperative that you begin to make utilizing them a priority method of outreach and advocacy.


(For those that might already be doing this, I applaud you.  I'd also like to hear all about it, so email me or comment below.)

No comments:

Post a Comment