How Unions Are Using Digital Communications to Organize Your Employees

Increasingly, social media and digital communications have become important organizing tools for labor unions. Moreover, according to a recent Labor and Employment Report, social-media organizing is particularly effective among millennials who are also "more receptive to unionization." Employers must be familiar with how unions use digital communications to best protect themselves from these sorts of activities.

It makes sense - social media and digital communications are used for absolutely everything. With a few clicks, it touches everything from staying in communication with people to hosting virtual meetings to keep remote employees connected, online shopping, ordering lunch or grocery delivery, and more. It also gives people easy (and private) access to one other, which is a recipe for union organizers to insert themselves and establish connections with employees. In addition, social media channels provide a way for labor unions to create a space for employees to express grievances and to spread the claim that their employer can't or won't take the time to hear those same complaints. It's easy to see how social media sites where private groups can be created, such as Facebook, have quickly become a tool for union organizing efforts. 

Social media and digital communications have become increasingly more important organizing tools for #laborunions. #socialmedia #unionorganizing

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Social Media Apps and Union Organizing

In December of 2020, the Clubhouse app made its way onto the scene as a new style of digital communications. With its invite-only access, Clubhouse lets like-minded users connect in private audio-only sessions. Like a podcast, users can simply listen to a discussion and connect with others. In short, it's a great place to exercise the right to talk with coworkers about wages and benefits or any other number of working conditions. Clubhouse could be the perfect platform for labor unions to seek out disgruntled employees. We've written at length about the Clubhouse app since we anticipate the growth to continue in 2021 and beyond. You can read more about it here.

Frank is another online platform where employees can privately organize on campaign issues -- like ending forced arbitration for sexual misconduct cases -- and call to form a workplace diversity & inclusion committee. Employees create a campaign on the platform, include a description of the issue, a demand letter, an invitation to coworkers to collaborate, and any applicable attachments that add context. The campaign goes live and invites coworkers to join in the discussion and sign on. 

digital communications for union organizing

Of course, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram all also provide for private and direct communication for employees, and therefore, union organizers. With private groups on Facebook, and direct messaging among all platforms, there is the ability for a conversation about organizing to occur without employers being included or notified until it's too late. It's absolutely crucial to be proactive, not reactive, in this ever-changing world of labor and employee relations that Projections refers to as "The Proactive Era.

It can be extremely beneficial to utilize existing social media channels and connect with employees whenever possible. You can solicit feedback from them and establish open lines of communication, even if your employees are in the field or not at a desk. Not only that, you can use internal social media, such as podcasts, to deliver various messages, information, and instructions, as necessary. 

How Unions Use Digital Communications as Organizational Tools

1. Social media, email, texting, and apps like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram allow employees to communicate and present the opportunity for organizing discreetly. According to The Century Foundation, workers can begin an organizing campaign by using these types of digital communications -- completely out of sight from their employers. This ability allows workers to discuss grievances in their workplace and how organizing may address these issues.

2. Since the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) reversed its years-long policy banning employees from using their workplace internet connections for organizing activities. The NLRB states that employees can use their workplace internet and email to organize activities during non-working time.

3. By using social media, employees can instantly communicate with a large number of their colleagues. Also, workers are able to begin organizing on their own. Since many employers successfully characterize labor unions as outsiders, the workers' ability to organize on their own easily can seriously undermine this argument.

4. Social media allows workers to coordinate with national labor unions. This gives them access to experienced union organizers who can give them information regarding strategies and best practices. By connecting with national unions over social media, workers may also gain access to labor attorneys.

5. Using social media makes the whole organizing process easier for those involved. Labor unions can use specific algorithms to target areas that might be particularly susceptible to labor organizing. Employees can use these algorithms to identify potential demands.

social media union organizing

Be Proactive: Use Social Media to Connect With Employees

Communicating with employees where they already are and in familiar ways can be crucial during an active organizing campaign. Digital communications that you develop and implement, or simply utilization of existing social media, can be a great way to stay connected with employees. But, it can't be overstated: a positive employee relations strategy and workplace culture of communicating are the utmost priority. This helps your organization to remain one where unions simply aren't necessary.

Even if you don't believe that unions are threatening your company, it's important to use social media to engage with your employees in advance of any organizing attempts. If a labor union targets your company later and you haven't established a social media presence, then it may be too late to do so with credibility. Employees will view late social-media development as an obvious attempt to counteract union-organizing activities, and those efforts will likely fail. It's important to implement your own digital communication strategy to not only stay union-free but to maintain positive employee relations and a strong connection between your leaders and employees

Maintain Positive Employee Relations

One of the best ways an employer can prevent union organizing is by implementing and prioritizing positive employee relations. According to the Labor and Employment Report, employers should make sure that managers and supervisors receive training to "take notice of and address changes in the workplace, including changes in employee personality and morale." Since unhappy employees can easily take to social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, to vent their frustrations and connect with other like-minded employees, you can get ahead of the game if you can keep your employees from wanting to unionize in the first place. For some ideas to boost your employee relations strategy, you can check out this post, where we break down some best practices for staying union-free. 

Moreover, employers can harness social media to improve relations with their employees and make union organizing less likely. You can use social media as an engagement tool. Keeping your employees engaged will make it harder for labor organizers to gain support in your organization. For example, offer online videos that connect and provide meaningful learning resources for your employees and supervisors.

Employers can harness #socialmedia to improve their #employeerelations and make union organizing less likely. You can use social media as an engagement tool! #unionorganizing #unionavoidance

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Develop Your Digital Communications Strategy

Projections, Inc. has had the pleasure of working with hundreds of companies and their thousands of employees to stay connected, implement communication strategies, and stay union-free. With comprehensive tools like custom video and eLearning, we can help organizations tackle their employee engagement and communication challenges. 

With a solution like ProofBox, you can instantly solve even the most challenging employee communication needs and build a culture where unions simply aren't necessary. You'll have one easy-to-use comprehensive platform to address the diverse needs of your Human Resources and Labor Relations teams. With resources that help build an authentic employer brand and true employee engagement, ProofBox will become your favorite way to communicate with employees on tough topics. Schedule a demo today or connect with our team of professionals today to get assistance with the digital tools you need.

About the Author Walter Orechwa

Walter is Projections’ CEO and the founder of UnionProof & A Better Leader. As the creator of Union Proof Certification, Walter provides expert advice, highly effective employee communication resources and ongoing learning opportunities for Human Resources and Labor Relations professionals.

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