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How Communication Can Empower the Labor Movement

Note:  This is part II of my series on how we should address the challenges facing the labor movement today. Read part I focusing on leadership development here.

The Changing Landscape of Communication

In the last 20 years, the Internet has turned our world upside down. Traditional media including print newspapers, TV and radio, have suffered as people turn to online sources for their news. This is both good and bad.

Bad because there are fewer trained journalists reporting the news and our brothers and sisters in the media industry have suffered. On the other hand, the Internet allows us to bypass corporately-controlled media conglomerates and communicate directly with our audience.

Using e-mail marketing and social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, we can deliver our messages to our members and supporters. The key is to provide interesting content in a timely way.

You Only Get Out What You Put In

Of course, that’s easier said than done. I can tell you as the former head of a local in San Francisco, I didn’t have time to devote to social media updates.

But now that I have some distance from the day-to-day frenzy of managing a local, I wish that I had devoted more resources to these types of communications. Certainly corporations do and thankfully, more and more unions are getting on board.

What do I mean by resources? People and money. Pay someone, someone who wants to help, who wants to develop as a leader, to become your local’s communications point person.

Put that person in charge of your social media posts, your e-mail marketing, your union’s blog if you have one.

Room for Growth

The AFL-CIO's Twitter account posts daily updates and communications to its 52,000 followers.

The AFL-CIO’s followers on Twitter account for less than .36% of the labor movement.

The AFL-CIO has done a great job branding itself online via its website and through social media outlets including Twitter, Facebook, and even Pinterest to communicate our message of solidarity and hope for working class people.

Yet the AFL-CIO’s 52,300 Twitter followers represent only a tiny fraction (less than 4/10 of one percent) of what could be a giant following. There are 14.5 million labor union members across the nation. I’m willing to bet most union members are online at some point during the week. We need to find a way to let them know organized labor is online too.

How do we do this? It can be as simple as a poster or flyer with your local union’s social media information. Or take it up a notch and pay for sponsored posts or ads on social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter targeted to your members.

Our members can’t follow us if we don’t tell them where we are. So let’s do it. Let’s use the Internet to communicate easily, efficiently and effectively with our current…and future…members.

The Bottom Line

The point is we can’t afford to be left out of the conversation and the conversation is happening on the Internet. If we remain silent, we will continue to lose members.

Coming soon: Part III, where I discuss the need for stronger vision in our labor unions.

Next Clicks:

Why Labor Unions Ought To Develop More Leaders

How to Grow Your Union Membership

Who Will Lead Tomorrow’s Labor Movement?

About the Author:
FX Crowley is a Public Affairs and Labor Relations Specialist, and former 15-year Business Manager of IATSE Local 16, San Francisco. A third-generation San Franciscan, FX can break down any football game from Pop Warner to the Pros and analyze it for hours. Contact to learn more ››