Technology: Friending the unions

Labor’s stealthy campaign to organize your workforce through social media

Today’s labor law practitioners increasingly hear a common troubling narrative: that an employer was blindsided by a union filing a petition to organize its workforce. Historically, employers have been able to see signs of nascent union organizing: union literature and cards in the workplace, union staff visiting the worksite or reports of unwelcome home visits, for example. But these traditional forms of union organizing now frequently are preceded by extensive social media campaigns, subtly imposing the union’s message months before actual card-signing efforts. The result is that the workforce is subjected to a message campaign perhaps well before the employer knows its workforce has been targeted. This deprives the employer of the ability to take early responsive measures, putting employers at a communication disadvantage that may be insurmountable.

Social media as an organizing tool: Why it is effective

The tactics: How unions use social media

Even a cursory review of publicly available sites illustrates the extent of labor unions’ use of social media. Today, every major labor union has a prominent social media community, such as a Facebook page, that pushes out the union message. These pages provide links to YouTube libraries where the unions have posted video messages, stories and instructional films. The Teamsters have a YouTube library containing more than 200 searchable videos, supplemented regularly with new messages about the benefits of being a Teamster or the recent organizing victory of one of its Locals.

Contributing Author

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Robert Quackenboss

Robert T. Quackenboss is a partner in the Labor & Employment practice at Hunton & Williams LLP whose practice focuses on complex labor and business...

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