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I held a workshop today called Online Organizing. There were 30 local labor leaders in the workshop, it went well. What I find fascinating about talking with labor leaders is how far apart they are from one another in online experience. One brother said his local doesn't have a website, but wants one, another brother said he needs ideas on how to better use Facebook. I am more than 100% certain that some of the folks in the room never been on Facebook, but they sure enough heard about it ... from their kids, our future members.

I held a workshop today called Online Organizing. There were 30 local labor leaders in the workshop, it went well. What I find fascinating about talking with labor leaders is how far apart they are from one another in online experience. One brother said his local doesn't have a website, but wants one, another brother said he needs ideas on how to better use Facebook. I am more than 100% certain that some of the folks in the room never been on Facebook, but they sure enough heard about it ... from their kids, our future members.

The union movement needs to embrace online technology to educate, mobilize, organize. Some are fearful of the technology because they are not the best typists in the world -- others just think they have no time to take the struggle online. My response is that you have no choice, if you want to maintain your current membership and grow out the union, it is imperative that you bring your efforts to the online community.

Everyone has their own frustrations. While some folks are grappling with what content to push to their sites, others are grappling with getting their apathetic members to go to the sites in the first place. I used to hate when compassionate people would say, "My issues are similar, but different." But ... that's the case with me today.  My frustrations are different in that I am dealing fairly well apathetic union members, it is not finding labor represented on progressive or democratic blogs that annoys me. (Not to do an unceremonious plugh -- but this was one of the reasons I started Union Review in the first place.

On May 1; May Day, there were a few diaries on Kos that were like a breath of fresh air, but then today I come and there isn't much being said pertaining to labor. (Disclaimer: I looked for about 10 minutes, if there is something there pertaining to labor, it wasn't on the few pages I scanned).  So, I have a question (and keep in mind it is a loaded one as I prepare a little each day for Yearly Kos): Do you guys choose not to cover labor issues because you don't know enough about the issues we deal with? Is it because the union movement is a tasty bowl of alphabet soup and you can't figure out what the crap all the acronyms stand for:  AFL-CIO, IBT, SEIU, UNITE, IBEW, UBC? Or is it something else entriely? As I help more and more local unions get online, they are going to look for progressive bloggers to help spread the word online -- I know this for a fact.

Today I received a press release at UnionReview.com. The lead graph starts,  "CWA and IBEW are supporting three shareholder proposals at Verizon's annual meeting on Thursday, May 7 in Louisville, KY to improve corporate governance." And I took the release, posted it to UnionReview and sent a note to a friend in CWA. I went to Kos to see what's going on with folks and thought, geez, if I was in your shoes I would have no idea what the hell CWA  or IBEW is. The Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers have joined together to fight a battle at Verizon -- it has been going on a long time. So this news is that they are jointly supporting shareholder proposals at this forthcoming meeting is interesting -- but because they will also protest the company's lack of concern for its workers' rights. We need to get that word out far and wide.

I don't work for either of these two unions or the AFL-CIO, who issued the statement, but it would great to hear how others are reading this news.

I do work at the Teamsters Union (it was Teamster Local Leaders that I gave my presentation to earlier). And at the Teamsters there are a million and one noteworthy items a blogger could go blog nutty with. For instance, today in Buffalo the Rural Metro workers ratified their contract. Why is this good news? Because these workers have been going to the job without a contract since June of last year when their last one expired.  A one-year, retroactive agreement was negotiated to cover this time period and expires on June 30 2009. The second agreement is for four years and takes effect July 1, 2009.

"Educating our members was the key to ratifying these agreements after the group rejected a tentative offer negotiated by a prior union administration last fall," said Mike Wach, President of Local 375. "Now our goal is to develop a positive working relationship with Rural Metro, so the interests of EMT’s and paramedics can be addressed on an ongoing basis. These agreements should create opportunities for further workplace advances."

Moving forward in my rant, you cannot imagine how hard it is to change the commonly-held negative perception of unions -- especially online. People think I am a freakin' gangster, that I am corrupt, that all I am interested in is closing down a company. None of that is close to the truth of me or most unions. The reality is that most of us are organizing for justice in the work place. Most of us are working to bring a voice in the work place. We look to get a collective bargaining agreement - also known as CBA in the soup. The deal is that though me and a lot of organizers are not lawyers, you practically need one to go to work today. Workers need to know what their rights are to organize. Workers need to know what it means to drive up standards in the work place. Unions do this work.

But all ths to say that I need folks to write some diaries / blogs on any number of issues taking place at any number of unions. And when you do ... please email me the link to your piece so that I can spread it around for you. My email is Rnegri@teamster.org.

Thanks for letting me rant a little.

Originally posted to Union Review on Tue May 05, 2009 at 04:45 PM PDT.

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