Winning Essay: How Can Unions Leverage Social Media to Increase Communication about the Union Movement to Members & the Gen. Pub

Union World edition: 
Apr 2012
page: 
9

Winning Essay:
How Can Unions Leverage Social Media to Increase Communication about the Union Movement to Members and the General Public?

By Jacqueline Marie Wall
Throughout the history of Industrial America, the union movement has worked towards creating a safe and fair working environment for employees everywhere. Without unions, workers can be subject to unfair wages, unsafe conditions, little to no legal protection, and overall exploitation. The unions in America allow workers to have a sense of security as well as be part of a strong community of passionate employees.
Research done by the American Sociological Review has concluded that in the past forty years the involvement in unions has declined. This is thought to be due to the fact that the country’s economy has become less reliant on labor jobs which are union and more ­reliant on technological and service jobs that are non union.
There is no reason that anyone should be unaware of the benefits of unions while we live in such a media-focused society. With the use of social media it is possible for the number of union members and the amount of people who support unions to increase. If the more popular jobs around the country become union-based, it will allow for safer and more reliable working conditions as well as a stable economy.
Social media is effective in spreading news and allowing people to communicate with one another because it is easily accessible to everyone. Union members can gather information about their union, as well as spread information about the benefits of the union. Through mass media, people everywhere can gain an understanding of the benefits to being in a union. Through this information comes support, which is an important part in the progression of the union movement. Different types of social media that the unions can benefit from are blogs, news coverage, newsletters, and also some of the mainstream web sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Today, social media helps workers to truly experience the connection that they have amongst their fellow members. The IBEW is an excellent example of a union that utilizes social media. Upon logging onto the union’s website, there is a collection of news articles that reflect the success stories, as well as any issues that the union is going through. The Union has a website, a Facebook page, and YouTube videos — all of which allow its members to be up-to-date on all of the union’s latest news. Information on the union is easily accessible and this inevitably creates a sense of brotherhood.
The “Right to Work” protest in Wisconsin last year is reflective of how the media can be used to spread awareness of issues within unions. From the start of the protests there was ample media coverage about the issues people had with certain unions being mandatory to join. As the news about the ­issue spread, people were able to better their understanding on the values that unions have and form their opinions on the matter.
It is important for unions to use media to reflect the success stories and accomplishments of the jobs and of individual employees as well as protests and workers who want a change. Press about the struggles in a union is helpful when people are looking for more union members to support their protests and make a change.
Social media has a lot of potential to attract more people into supporting unions. The messages that should be included in the outreach should reflect the benefits of unions on the economy. Unions allow people to become employed and it keeps people employed. This economic awareness will appeal to everyone, both union and non-union members.
The general public can benefit from this information because they will not have to go out of their way to gain information. If the benefits of the social union are being expressed on popular sites such as Facebook or Twitter, it can easily catch the eye of someone who is not aware of the importance of unions and change their opinion on the matter.
It is imperative the social media is utilized as much as possible in today’s society to communicate about the union movement because of the status of the economy. Henry Miller, IBEW’s founder and first president had the right idea in his belief that national awareness is the key to success of unions. The union’s first selectman and treasurer James T. Kelly was quoted saying “Miller would tell us at each meeting that unless there was a national organization of electrical workers, we could never hope to accomplish much.” These men, the fathers of the Electrical Union, became successful in uniting men all across the country and joining them into the brother­hood. With this inspiration in mind, union members across the nation have the potential to increase union memberships through the endless social media opportunities.