Organized Labor’s Secret Online WeaponsAnd 5 Things You Can Do Now to Defend Your Company Prepared By Projections, Inc. www.projectionsinc.com
T Today, there are over 1.5 billion internet users worldwide. 70% of the people in North America are online. Almost 3 billion people use mobile phones, and 1.8 billion utilize text messaging. The majority of workers in the U.S. have mobile phones and/or computers with Internet access, and the capabilities of these devicesincrease every day. Your company may keep up with the latest technology and advances of the Internet to improveproduction and performance, but with large budgets and manpower, unions are usually many steps ahead in their useof technology to find and organize workers.Web-based technology, including social networking sites, are being used more often in union organizing campaignsbecause of the effectiveness in spreading information to a wide audience and because employees have immediateaccess to union organizing material through the internet. The unions can reach not only employees in this way butalso their families and spouses – strong influences on employee attitudes about pay, benefits and working conditions.Who… are you?Becoming more popular with all demographic groups, large social networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, Seesmic)provide instant networks for people to join. It’s important to note the way in which sites like LinkedIn create directconnections between people who would otherwise never meet. The bottom line is that these social networking sites,along with the use of blogs, wikis, and microblogging sites like Twitter make user-generated content and peer-to-peer information sharing possible. These tools (you may have heard them A SHORT LIST OF UNION-FOCUSED RESOURCES referred to as “Web 2.0” technologies) have changed the way people – and www.unions-america.com - Union websites, hosting, internet organized labor - use online media, service and web communication tools for unions. encouraging collaboration among potential union members in ways that have before communicateordie.com - Our mission is to build a network been possible. Unions are also heavy users of passionate individuals who are serious about discussing of Pay-Per-Click advertising available and developing solutions that allow unions to realize the full through Google AdWords, Yahoo, and potential of Internet technology. others, meaning that with a single search for ‘how to get a union,” your employees prometheuslabor.com- Prometheus builds union websites that are well on their way. they claim are revolutionizing the way unions and labor-friendly organizations use the web. Set ‘em up, knock ‘em down. Savvy and powerful unions have been, www.uniondemocracy.com - offers multiple resources, from the beginning, early adopters of the including how to build your own “rank and file” website, t-shirts tools and technology that allow them to for sale, as well as a book on organizing tactics called “The communicate en masse with little effort. Troublemaker’s Handbook.” For years, we’ve watched them wage online corporate campaigns to wear down www.irle.berkeley.edu/library/index.php?page=24 - List of their targets. Organizers have created official union websites press releases, offering false information, that have caused irreparable damage to www.union-organizing.com -designed to provide help to U.S. companies worldwide, even when their Workers in their efforts at organizing themselves and their co- allegations prove false. Organized labor workers into labor unions. Encourages workers to “Research has nonetheless established a pervasive your employer. Find out information as to who, what, where, presence online, with a vast network of and when about their business interests and finances. Are they resources and connections. as poor as they claim? Discover where your employer is making political contributions at Federal Election Commission (FEC) Union organizers are now tapping into this information. Are these labor friendly candidates? Knowledge network to organize workers much faster is power.” and in greater numbers than ever before. Unions establish websites with online www.unionplus.org - Offers union members discounts on forums, and encourage employees to vent, everything from auto insurance and mortgages to pet services to rage and otherwise rally others to the cause cruises, as well as an independent Health Savings program. Also of unionization. These sites often take the dedicates multiple pages to helping union organizers promote form of an online petition – even an online unionization by promoting the Union Plus programs- organizers authorization card. can even win cash prizes for talking about the benefits of Union Plus.
Those Who Can’t Do, Teach.Many sites exist to make sure union leaders have the technology they need to “bring a voice to working families,”with computers and Internet access. Union organizing groups have their own electronic mailing lists and othere-communications systems (including blogs with RSS feeds, podcasts, and video and photo sharing) to help themshare information and to collect signatures online. Union leaders are using SMS to text directly to workers’ mobilephones. Organized labor has adapted the conversational nature of these new internet tools to share their tactics andtheir methods – what works and what doesn’t.Union Websites as Ranked by Alexa. Alexa Internet, Inc. is a California-based subsidiary company of Amazon.com, that is best known for operating a website that provides information on the web traffic to other websites.Traffic Rank is based on three months of aggregated historical traffic data. The lower the rank number (ie: the closer to #1), the more visitors asite is receiving. Union Site Address Traffic Rank Sites that Link In Online Since Steelworkers USWA.org 4,444,707 274 7/24/1996 Unite Here Unitehere.org 1,126,606 185 2/23/2004 Machinists GoIAM.org 815,954 108 8/18/2000 Electrical Workers IBEW.org 449,429 316 4/13/1998 Teamsters teamster.org 766,807 415 1/9/1996 Service Employees seiu.org 617,444 600 12/2/1994 Operating Engineers iuoe.org 1,038,967 191 12/5/1996 Auto Workers uaw.org 476,295 560 10/4/1996 State, County & Municipal Employees afscme.org 767,015 917 4/5/1995 Laborer’s liuna.org Not Available 131 4/22/1996 Food and Commercial Workers ufcw.org 870,326 349 11/2/1994 Transportation Workers twu.org 4,708,186 74 3/9/1996 Mine Workers umwa.org 1,091,680 200 4/11/1997 Farm Workers ufw.org 1,697,595 430 6/25/1997 Plumbers & Pipefitters ua.org 1,816,071 121 5/8/1996 Sheetmetal workers Union smwia.org 2,652,345 158 5/28/1995 Office & Professional Employees opeiu.org 6,898,824 84 9/11/1995 Communication Workers cwa-union.org 784,564 415 9/21/1995 Carpenters & Joiners (UBC) carpenters.org 1,774,481 101 3/9/1996 California Nurses calnurse.org 1,395,675 124 7/24/1998Your Implicit EndorsementYour company’s public website can do little to present information that counters this powerful ongoing dialogue.And company intranets, filled with Human Resources information on benefits, PTO, and employee birthdays, arenot helpful to address this either. Despite their positive nature, these company websites simply cannot address theimmediate issues employees have on their mind on a daily basis – the issues on which union organizers are able tobase their campaigns. By not answering a union’s claims, questions, and accusations, you are creating an implicitendorsement of what’s being said about your company and your management. In the absence of any source ofemployee information directly from the company, the union’s efforts are given additional credibility.So how does a smart company get ahead of the extensive groundwork unions have already laid? In the face oftheir professional knowledge, it’s easy for a company like yours to feel as though they’re already behind the curve.However, while unions are using these new technologies and tactics to find and unionize workers, there are effectiveand reliable methods by which an employer can begin pro-actively communicating about the possible effects ofunionization, and the reasons to remain union free.
Here are 5 basic but vital first steps in this process:1. Start a DialogueThe first - and most important - step is to approach the topic of unions in an open manner. Too many employers areafraid of the “u” word, but the goal here is not to make any employee feel threatened or intimidated (as that will,more often than not, backfire). What’s needed initially is an “Icebreaker,” a straightforward and frank discussion ofwhy your company believes that third party intervention is not only unnecessary, but can also carry with it risks thatemployees may not otherwise consider. This preventative discussion is most effective before any union approaches thecompany’s employees.Your labor attorney may also recommend sharing your union-free philosophy statement with new employees, startingon day one, as well as putting into place a non-solicitation policy and other similar protective measures.2. Open the DoorSecond, invite communication between managers and employees regarding the workplace and unionization. Makesure managers demonstrate that employee concerns are important. Realizing that not every supervisor or managermay be as people-oriented as you might like, consider positive employee relations training for supervisors. Make surethat the training includes information on labor unions and how they can affect your company and their job. Plus, yoursupervisors need specific tools on making unions unnecessary, and how to communicate with employees.You may also want to explore a dedicated website for your supervisors or managers, one that provides a consistentvoice and lets them know that they are fully supported by upper management. This site can include tools that will keepupper management informed, as well as ongoing information for supervisors, your union-free philosophy, and facts onthe union(s) most likely to target your company.3. Establish a PresenceNext, establish a consistent online presence for employees – one that reinforces positive employee relations byproviding the very information employees and their families are seeking. Employees must have a source that theyknow will provide ongoing information about the things that are important to them – one that is not just relevant buttrustworthy, timely and solid.Establishing a web presence like this can be tricky. You’ve got to not only provide the resource, but communicate thatit exists and encourage employees to make use of it. Your online presence should allow employees to gain informationand share their thoughts. It should also contain relevant interactive elements, such as calculators. Remember: positiveemployee relations must be undertaken as a two-way street. The unions will be all too willing to hear employeegrievances if you aren’t.4. Provide “Useful Information”Fourth, it’s important that the online information you provide is useful to employees. The question is, how do youdefine “useful?” An employer should define it as the information employees need to understand how a union couldaffect the daily workings of the company, the support and communication channels available to employees, and howthey can be affected personally by an organizing attempt. In short, employees need to see current, relevant truth. Theyneed to know about the things that can affect them, including their specific benefits, changes at the company, and up todate trends and events.In addition, they need to know that upper management really is aware of the challenges they face on a daily basis. Thisdefinition of useful information could include such things as a benefits calculator that shows the true value of whatthe company provides them with, letters from management and upper management, information about unions, evencalculators that demonstrate what they would lose if they were to go on strike. Many options exist, and the definitionof “useful” will vary from employer to employer, but having an established online communication vehicle in place canbe vital if a team of union organizers starts soliciting your employees.5. Maintain Ongoing CommunicationFinally, companies cannot simply create an online communication tool, launch it, and walk away. Pro-active employee
relations efforts that keep companies union-free are only effective if they are ongoing. Make sure that the channelsyou open remain so – a website must be updated as frequently as possible (weekly, at least, daily if feasible), onlinedialogue must be conducted in a timely manner, managers must be well-trained and available to address employeeconcerns.Your dedicated online resources can provide information to employees and supervisors that a public site simply can-not for security reasons, and that an intranet is not capable of, by simple virtue of the sheer volume of information anintranet usually houses. A “UnionFree.com” website can provide employees with everything they need to get their ques-tions answered and understand the company’s union free philosophy. A site of this nature should be kicked off by yoursupervisors, with positive employee meetings that include reinforcement of the company’s union-free philosophy. Thesemeetings (and subsequent orientations for new hires) can include a consistent video message on the topic of avoidingunionization, forthright discussions with well-trained managers, and even providing mentors for new employees untilthey feel comfortable asking questions on their own.When the largest majority of employees – starting with the hourly production worker – can firmly say “we don’t need athird party here,” that’s when the threat of a union is diminished, and companies can focus on the business of meetingcustomer needs and exceeding expectations, union-free.Now that you understand how adept unions have become in making use of the newest technology, keep in mind thatthere are a select few companies, such as Projections, who can help you communicate your specific issues to your uniqueworkforce by sharing knowledge gained from 30 years of helping employers communicate with employees PROJECTIONS Connecting Through Employee Communications Since 1979 For more information on our products, please contact us at 770-448-9741 or firstname.lastname@example.org Visit us at www.ProjectionsInc.com
Appendix:Sources of Information on Unions and Web-based TechnologyBackground and Demographic Information:http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htmWorld Internet Users and Population Statshttp://www.punchkickinteractive.com/blog/index.php/mobile-marketing/mobile-marketing-statistics/A new Experian study revealed a number of mobile marketing and text messaging statistics.Union Organizing Informational Websites (including Corporate Campaigns):http://www.union-organizing.com/Resources for Labor Union Organizing is designed to provide help to U.S. Workers in their efforts at organiz-ing themselves and their co-workers into labor unions. It is also a resource for Union Leaders to assist in theiroperations, organizing, and bargaining efforts.http://www.unionorganizing.net/Are you a non-union worker? Then this site is for you! Here, you can get all the information you need to orga-nize your workplace by joining a union.http://www.laboreducator.org/gameplan.htmThis series of eight articles on union organizing by Harry Kelber contains some fresh ideas, including a detailedplan on how to involve a union’s most precious and largely neglected asset — its own members — in order tomultiply the number of campaigns and win more of them.http://odepotunion.tripod.com/index.htmThanks for checking out the site. As many of you know the Office Depot employees at store 386 in Florence,AL are trying to form a union. It is our goal to assist employees in other stores into starting their own unioncampaign. There are many reasons we, the employees, are organizing.http://www.ueunion.org/org_steps.htmlTo begin organizing a union at your workplace there’s a simple starting point before going through the stepslisted below: quietly talk to a few of your co-workers who you think may be interested in organizing.Social Networking and Union Organizing:http://briarpatchmagazine.com/2008/11/01/labour-enters-the-facebook-matrix/Union Organizing 2.0: Labour enters the Facebook matrixhttp://blog.aflcio.org/2009/02/08/unionbook-a-social-network-for-labor/UnionBook: the social networking site for trade unionists. We know that UnionBook will never be as big asthe giant commercial networks like FaceBook, but once we have several thousand trade unionists using it, I’mconfident that it will become a powerful tool for our movement worldwide.http://www.strongerunions.org/2008/12/social-networking-union-style/It seems that no campaign is complete these days without someone setting up the ubiquitous accompanyingFacebook group.
Using Texting Services to Reach Prospective Membershttp://www.ntu.org/main/press.php?PressID=1088&org_name=NTUAlthough text messaging, or SMS (Short Message Service), outreach has been popularized by the entertainment indus-try, political campaigns, and other policy organizations, NTU Director of Government Affairs Andrew Moylan believesNTU is the first grassroots taxpayer advocacy group to utilize it on a national level. “It’s well known that PresidentObama successfully used text technology during his campaign, but few -- if any -- taxpayer watchdog organizations areusing it to mobilize their members,” Moylan said. “Now, with the push of a button, citizens nationwide will be able tocall their elected officials -- from Members of Congress to state legislators -- and voice their concerns on or support ofcertain bills.”http://followme.vox.com/library/post/the-unions-are-texting.htmlThe unions are texting: The title of this post refers to one keynote session led by Andy Stern of SEIU. At the end of histalk, he pulled out a cellphone and asked people to text 35328 to answer a poll question. I knew text messaging had ar-rived when a union guy asks you to text.http://communicateordie.com/node/615Steve Sloan is a shop steward in Chapter 307 of CSUEU, the California State University Employees Union at SJSU,San Jose State University, San Jose, California. He uses cell phone photos/blogs to raise health and safety issues andvideopodcasts to share interviews with union officers about issues and debates within the union. In this blog entry (fromhis My Unions blog), Steve advocates using the newest of the new media.