At Netroots Nation, there is a wide variety of activists and bloggers who hope to make positive changes in their own communities. In their local unions they have a strong potential partner in this effort—but only if communication and trust between the groups is created. That’s was the focus of “Working with Unions in Your District,” a panel held Thursday afternoon at the conference.
Blogger Chris Shannon moderated the panel, which included Blaine Rummel of AFSCME, Matt Browner Hamlin of SEIU, Elana Levin of Workers United and our own Eddie Vale, AFL-CIO media specialist. The panel introduced bloggers to what unions are and how progressives can work with them to help make positive change in their communities.
Rummel noted that union members can have the biggest impact at the local level, because they’re bottom-up, member-driven organizations.
Unions are democratically elected bodies—there’s a lot of local autonomy. If you’re looking to get involved, it starts locally. We appreciate that people make their choices independently.
Rummel said unions have meeting space, organizational infrastructure and other resources in communities across the country, and that unions can provide expertise and content to bloggers interested in state and local issues.
What’s more, Browner Hamlin added, while political campaigns come and go, unions are always around, active and engaged in their communities.
Vale said the best way to build engagement between bloggers and unions is to build ongoing relationships.
Browner Hamlin, who came to the union movement from the blog world, pointed out some of the overlaps between the two groups. He noted that unions and local bloggers have been collaborating to get the word out about destructive state budget cuts. The two groups are natural allies, he said.
Levin saw blogs as an opportunity to organize people who had not previously been included in the mainstream conversation. She noted that union members know the traditional media doesn’t pay much attention to labor issues, and they get excited about blog coverage. Levin said unions are natural partners of community groups of all kinds who are trying to make positive change.
Vale noted that bloggers are particularly helpful when they push back against attacks on unions and union members. Push-back is happening at the national level, he noted, but needs to take place at the local level, too. Local bloggers, he said, can fight negative media portrayals of unions and falsehoods about union members.
For a detailed account of the conversation at this panel, you can check our Twitter feed.