This is a three post series discussing union communication, awareness and organization strategies.
Late last week just before the Labor Day holiday began I happened upon a hash tag from one of my favorite friendly new blogs at www.upworthy. I quickly saw that their #upchat hash tag was discussing the recent food service strikes and the proposed minimum wage increase. I quickly realized that it was a sponsored Twitter chat by the AFL-CIO. Upworthy offers sponsored series on their site with Workonomics content being sponsored by the AFL-CIO as well. #Upchat coincided with the picketing by restaurant and retail workers who are in favor of raising the minimum wage, receiving time off benefits and healthcare.
The chat was very lively and I dove headfirst into the fire as the sole HR professional participating in the chat among blue collar, hourly workers, union supporters and union organizers. It was a lot like actual union organizing meetings with comments, information and chaos being tweeted everywhere. Here are a few tweets that caught my attention during the Twitter chat.
As a daughter of a blue collar family who was a union member now working in the HR industry, I’ve seen both sides. I remember the day my dad walked off the job for the strike. I also remember my parents being worried because of the unpaid time off, how we were going to feed our family. I’ve negotiated union contracts, worked with union stewards and given union awareness training to my management teams in addition to being in the middle of a number of union votes and campaigns working in HR. It’s not something I wish on my worst enemy. Working with unions isn’t easy especially in HR where I remained in a form of workplace bureaucratic limbo armed only with experience, case law, my game face and knowledge of our current union contract to protect me. Union negotiation was never fun, glamorous or pretty. It was often times war.
The current issue at hand regarding the minimum wage is not as clear cut as it seems which adds to the tension, strong opinions and grassroots support of unions who are using viral issues as a way to grow their dwindling membership. Union membership declined 11.8% from 2001-2012. Any type of politics is complex. Add in the media and it gets really dicey. What most HR professionals and business leaders don’t understand is how prevalent the use of blogs, Tumblr’s like Working America and social media sites like Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook are used to quickly spread news, information and support for union campaigns. The red #829 graphic you see at the beginning of this article was found quickly searching Twitter. Companies should be monitoring local union activities, company mentions and Twitter hash tags to look not only for unhappy employees for opportunities for organizing.
Twitter Hash Tags in Support of Raising #MinimumWage
During the course of the Twitter chat, I uncovered 10 hash tags used by employees, unions, supporters and the media to share news and views in real time. An even more important question, are you currently discussing company healthcare benefits, pay raises and paid time off benefits with your employees? Their opinions may not be things you want to hear, but I’m certain it’s something that your employees are thinking and discussing. Can you afford not be acting, talking and listening?
The new social media world allows the voices of many to come together and be heard. The question is whether business leaders are listening, planning and focusing on what to do should the next time it’s their employees who are walking off the job and striking.
This is a three post series discussing union communication and organization strategies. Watch our free webinar for more information on how unions are using social media.