OUR TIMES | Canada's Independent Labour Magazine

Talking About Organizing: A Series

This is an active online archive of commentaries and stories, first published in Our Times, about the experience of union organizing: what works and what doesn't. It's also the place where you'll find Our Times' columnist Derek Blackadder's WebWork series archived; articles about online resources for union activists.

"Organizing is important," writes labour educator Elaine Bernard in "The Power to Change Things." "But it needs to be more than simply signing up new members. Rather, the future of unions and their power rests with an informed, committed membership who understand that they are the union and that the power of the union rests with them."

If you would like to add to this discussion and submit a constructive commentary or story about organizing, contact the editor. Send an e-mail to editor@ourtimes.ca or call 902.755.6840

Mailing address:
"Talking About Organizing"
Our Times
P.O. Box 182
New Glasgow, Nova Scotia
B2H 5E2

Vol. 33 | Issue 2 | 2014
WEBWORK: Twitter Tips & Tweetfests
By Derek Blackadder
Unifor is applying the open-organizing approach to their online communications. Their monthly question-and-answer period with the union's president, on Twitter, is making a bit of a splash.

Vol. 33 | Issue 1 | 2014
WEBWORK: Mail Chimps & Changing Walmart
By Derek Blackadder
Tweets were tweeted. Flickr was deployed on strike days, as was Instagram. The result? One thousand five hundred actions (think about that for just a second) took place at 1,500 Walmart locations. Simultaneously. On the biggest day of the year for retail in the U.S.

Vol. 32 | Issue 6 | 2014
WEBWORK: Boosting Member Participation
By Derek Blackadder
The tech is there to allow for instant polling of union members about their reaction to a specific proposal. It has been for a while. How long before bargaining culture catches up?

Vol. 32 | Issue 5 | 2013
WEBWORK: Tech Tips & Tools for Change
By Derek Blackadder
Have pity on my tattered teeth: don't use Change.org to run an online action. Every time I see a union (or any other organization I approve of) using it to put some digital pressure on an employer I wind up grinding my teeth in frustration.

Vol. 32 | Issue 4 | 2013
WEBWORK: Meeting Members' Needs
By Derek Blackadder
I can't recall the last time I saw a campaign mailing from a union, aimed at either the public or its own members, that offered to meet a need. In comparison with the "look at us" triumphalist variety of union messages, they have been few in number.

Vol. 32 | Issue 3 | 2013
WEBWORK: The Digital Divide Where We Live
By Derek Blackadder
The digital divide isn't a Global South vs. Global North thing. It's a "my neighbourhood" thing, and it remains a consideration for anyone campaigning broadly, and, in some campaigns, it is a key consideration.

Vol. 32 | Issue 2 | 2013
WEBWORK: Take Back the Net
By Derek Blackadder
Always implicit, and sometimes embarrassingly explicit, in the online utopian screeds of the '90s was the hope or assumption that nastiness like racism and sexism were ideological impositions on workers and that, once free of corporate media, we'd be free of that, too. Nice sentiment.

Vol. 32 | Issue 1 | 2013
WEBWORK: Educating for Equity Now, and Always
By Derek Blackadder
It looks like our efforts to fight racism and xenophobia in the workplace, to build solidarity amongst our members, could use a little energy and a lot more support.

Vol. 31 | Issue 6 | 2012/1013
WEBWORK: A New Year Round-Up
By Derek Blackadder
Another tidal wave of how-to articles on using social media in organizing was generated by two announcements this past year: 1) Facebook now has more than 1 billion users, a number rising almost as fast as FB's share price is dropping, and 2) during the coverage of the American elections, polling seemed to have fallen out of favour and been replaced with Twitter-follower and FB "friend" counts. Australian union communications guru Alex White provides a nice antidote to this online frenzy.

Vol. 31 | Issue 4/5 | 2012
WEBWORK: Labour Wikipedia Initiative?
By Derek Blackadder
At least a couple of national unions and more than a few local unions have been the victims of attacks on their online reputations by way of their entries on Wikipedia. Now and then, it seems that unions are the victims of organized attempts to damage them. But we have bigger problems. The portrayal of workers and unions scattered all over Wikipedia is more than occasionally problematic.