They’re tweeting in Northern California about the Employee Free Choice Act, sharing about health care reform on Facebook in Montana and posting organizing messages on My Space for workers in York, Pa.
Across the country, union members are using the new social media to mobilize workers and share information.
Steve Selby, an Electrical Workers (IBEW) organizer in York, Pa., knows the value of social media. He urgently needed to reach 300 workers at a local Comcast office. Rather than standing outside the office and handing out a flier with different information each day, Selby taught himself how to set up a MySpace account. He handed out one flier directing workers to his MySpace page, where he shared information the workers needed to know.
Social media can be a strong complement to traditional organizing, says Darren DeMarco, IBEW’s information technology director:
I think you have to use every tool out there to organize. You have these tools out there where the user can very easily set up their own website, set up a Facebook page, reach out to friends and start a conversation with people they could not before.
The AFL-CIO, along with more than a dozen affiliated unions, is reaching out to potential new members and educating current members through such social sites as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Unions with a Facebook page or Twitter page or both include, AFSCME, AFT, Air Line Pilots (ALPA), American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM), American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC), Communications Workers of America (CWA), Electrical Workers (IBEW), Fire Fighters (IAFF), Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), Sheet Metal Workers (SMWIA),Transport Workers (TWU), UNITE HERE, United American Nurses (UAN) and United Steelworkers (USW).
Union activists are finding that social media reaches more people faster and cheaper than many traditional forms of communication.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who has made reaching out to young workers a priority, recognizes the value of social media as a tool to reach the next generation to carry on the fight for workers’ rights. In his keynote at Netroots Nation last month, Trumka said:
When I was growing up, and working in the coal mines, I certainly wasn’t tweeting about it!
In just a few years you have grown into a new force in progressive politics and also in American journalism. We are seeing a revolution in communications and we face a big challenge to keep progressives at the head of the curve. Our successes, including this conference, give us hope that we will. Many of us in the labor movement have fretted over the death of the labor beat at newspapers across the country. But we are seeing today that your work in the blogosphere is the equivalent of “letting a thousand flowers bloom.”
Netroots Nation is the annual gathering of progressive bloggers and hosts a site for exchanging ideas and learning how to be more effective in using technology to influence the public debate.