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PORTSIDELABOR  August 2010, Week 1

PORTSIDELABOR August 2010, Week 1

Subject:

The Top Ten List of Reasons Why Unions Aren't Using Social Media

From:

Portside Labor <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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Date:

Tue, 3 Aug 2010 21:23:41 -0400

Content-Type:

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (181 lines)

The Top Ten List of Reasons Why Unions Aren't Using
Social Media
By Heather Stefan
Sunday, August 1, 2010
New Labor Media Blog
http://www.newlabormedia.com/

I am continually surprised at the answers I typically
get when I ask local union leaders the follow question:

"Do you maintain an email list of all of your members,
and use it to blast emails out to the entire membership
for organizing efforts, get-out-the-vote campaigns,
newsletters, announcements, etc?"

The answer in every instance has been: No.

The excuses:

"I don't know, we just don't."   At least they're
honest.

"No, we set up phone banks or we do a mass mailing." 
Now this is what I call running a tight ship.  Let's
spend valuable staff time on the phone calling people,
particularly when most don't even answer their phones
anymore.  Mass mailings are even more absurd.  On one
hand, you can spend several hundred, if not thousands
of dollars (and union dues) on postage for a mass mail
out.  On the other hand, you can blast an email out for
- free.  Where is the logic here?

"We tried, but our older members often don't have an
email address, or they don't want to give it out." 
Well, then you simply won't have an email address for
them.  Do you let that stop you from gathering everyone
else's?  Here's a suggestion. Ask for it when a new
member fills out paperwork, right next to address and
phone number.  I noticed last week that an IBEW local
had it on their application, but they admitted that the
don't require it.  Make it mandatory.  The large
majority of new members and apprentices will have an
email address.  They probably have a Facebook and/or
Twitter account as well, which is why you, my friend
(and I say this with great respect and admiration) are
missing the boat, stuck in the past and putting your
local on life support in the not-to-distant future, if
it isn't already.  This may surprise a few people, but
email is old school.  It's slowly losing ground to the
Facebooks and Twitters of the world.  My point?  If
you're not even doing mass email blasts yet, you're
very far behind the eight ball and have some serious
catching up to do.

Social media is not a fad, folks.  It's here to stay,
and every expert will tell you that it has forever
changed - significantly changed - the way we
communicate in this country and around the world.  The
labor movement needs to get their collective social
media act together pronto if we want to take a step
towards establishing relevancy to our corporate
partners, those we currently have relationships with,
and those with which we want to.

If you're still skeptical, consider this:

Almost 45% of Americans have a Facebook account. This
equals 128,936,800 U.S. residents. The top three age
groups utilizing Facebook combined represent the ages
of 18-44, making up 66% of Facebook users. Do you have
one for your organization?  You or someone on staff
should establish one, if you haven't already. You're
missing out on a very vital communication strategy to
reach your members and potential ones as well.  We'll
breakdown a few of the most popular social networking
sites in the next few posts, to highlight the ways you
can use these mediums to further your local's goals. 
You might just be surprised at all of the ways you can
use it to benefit your organization.  Social networking
isn't just about "What are you doing?" status updates
anymore.

I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge a few cold,
hard realities of our labor movement right now,
particularly on the local level.  Yes, these are
generalizations, so these won't apply to all of you (we
do have a number of rogue, progressive locals out there
among us), but they will apply to many more locals than
they should.


The Top 10 List of Reasons Why Unions Aren't Using
Social Media

Local unions are often led by older leaders who are
steadfast in their unwavering dedication to upholding
traditions of the past.  The local is structured and
managed in much the same way it was 20 or 30 years ago.
Work is down, membership is down, dues are down.  Not
enough younger members are moving up the ranks fast
enough to help influence or encourage change. Labor
leaders consider themselves technologically savvy if
they have an email address and/or an iPhone and use it
to read their emails. While this is a good starting
point, there is much more to learn. Labor leaders
consider their local to be "progressive" if they have a
website (even if it hasn't changed in five years or
more and still has an announcement on the homepage
about the "upcoming" Labor Day picnic back in 2006). 
Your international's site doesn't count. Labor leaders
think that Facebook and Twitter are for "kids" and a
fad. Local leaders don't trust the internet and are
afraid of putting their local's information out in a
very public way. Labor leaders who are not experienced
in using the internet and/or social networking may feel
threatened by those who do. Those who aren't familiar
or comfortable with social media and networking assume
that it would be cost-prohibitive.  Operating funds are
tight these days, so "playing" on the internet isn't
worth the imagined cost. Internationals aren't pushing
social networking down to the local level. 
International leaders, listen up!  It isn't good enough
to be incorporating social networking on just your
level. No one has taken the time to show them how.

Internationals, you have to give your locals the tools
necessary to utilize it.  The next time you host a
conference, convention or workshop for your local
leaders and staff, add a Social Networking 101 break
out session to the mix.  When you have all of your
international training directors and instructors in
town for a train-the-trainer conference, add Social
Networking 101 to the agenda.  You have to teach them
how to do it and give them enough support and exposure
to it so that they'll be more comfortable with the
topic.  Show them examples of successful initiatives. 
Show them what you're doing. Put them in a classroom
that is set up with laptops, and walk them through the
process, step by step, of setting up a social
networking profile.  Explain the differences in social
networking sites.  Help them start to add friends and
followers.  Most importantly, ensure that there is
someone on your International's staff that is dedicated
to social media and can provide guidance and assistance
to locals when they need it - training,
troubleshooting, encouragement and referrals to other
labor organizations that are doing well with it.

Our leaders are masters of their trades - plumbers,
electricians, laborers, teachers, cooks, painters,
operating engineers, nurses, government workers,
miners, steel workers, sheet metal workers and pilots. 
They are writers, musicians, bricklayers, carpenters,
instrument technicians, actors, barbers, shipbuilders,
insulation workers, embalmers, millwrights and fitters.
 The list goes on and on.

What our leaders are not are public relations experts -
nor should they be.  We are notorious for not telling
our story in a proactive way, because we are always
playing defense.  But given the current economic
climate in this country, and a steadily declining
percentage of the marketplace, they better become
experts - and fast - and it's up to the Internationals
to see that they do.  Social media and networking are
tools for combating the negative reputation labor
unions have carried on their backs for decades, true or
not.  They are very important tools that we cannot
afford to ignore any longer.

PortsideLabor aims to provide material of interest to
people on the left that will help them to interpret the
world and to change it.

Submit material: email [log in to unmask]
Frequently asked questions: portside.org/faq
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