New Approaches to Organizing Women and Young Workers

When the AFL-CIO commissioned a survey of young workers and asked what they valued most in a career, the number one response may be surprising: time away from work to spend on personal and family priorities. A new report by the Labor Project for Working Families, Cornell ILR Programs and UC Berkeley Labor Center takes a closer look at organizing women and young workers on the issues they value most using a burgeoning organizing tool: social media.

From interviews with young women organizers, the report finds that many unions are using social media to its advantage: creating online identities to build credibility, using social media tools to widely disseminate information and coordinate action, and communicating with workers via technology both in real time and at flexible times. Although not a replacement for face to face interaction with workers, young women organizers are calling for greater social media training, resources and support to use these new tools more effectively.

Can social media provide new possibilities to overcoming age-old barriers to labor organizing? Can these new tools help to neutralize employer opposition and win worker support? The report calls for deeper investigation and a meaningful dialogue – not only within the labor movement but also with non-profits who have been pioneering this revolution in media, particularly on work family issues. All the organizers in the study wanted to know more about how other unions are using social media for effective organizing.

In a twist of fate, these tools seem to be expanding the blur between work and family – allowing us to mix work friends with personal friends on networking sites and easily be in touch with work 24/7.  Social media can have the effect of bringing work even closer to home, intensifying the tension of balancing work and life outside work. Union organizers themselves struggle to work exhaustive hours and still meet their individual and family needs.

Women and young workers value control and flexibility in their lives – these are core bargaining issues.  Social media may be the organizing tool the labor movement needs to be the leading voice for workers on balancing work and family.