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Training a New Generation of Union Members

As WGA East organizes more and more digital media employees, Local 3's Chris Erikson teaches them about the importance of taking action

Brian Young's picture
Oct 20, 2017

Over the last 2 years, the Writers Guild of America East (WGA East) has led the way in organizing the next generation of media companies. News sites that you go to every day like HuffPost and Vice are some of the workplaces that have joined.  Through their organizing efforts a new generation of union members, with new concerns, have joined the union movement just in time for the fights of their lives.

As traditional media is being choked to death by large corporations, digital media has risen to be many people’s trusted news source. In recent years sites like HuffPost, Vice, Thrillist, MTV news, the Intercept, Thinkprogress and Gizmodo Media Group have joined the WGA East and have become go to sites for both national and local news. As these sites have gotten larger, so too has the need for a voice on the job. While some employees organized around bread and butter union issues like better and more consistent pay for writers, better benefits, and job security, new issues like protecting their editorial independence and ensuring diversity in both their writing and in their workplaces’, have become rallying cries for joining WGA East.

Many of these millennial workplaces decided to organize with WGA East because of their reputation for being proactive, progressive, and getting results. In 2007-08, the Writers Guild shut down the entire TV and Movie industry when they went on strike. As a result, they won major victories for their members especially around creating a precedent for receiving pay from internet programing. Their willingness to strike, take on major companies and their understanding of the emerging internet media market, helped to ingratiate WGA East with a new generation of millennial members.

This weekend, WGA East is bringing these new members together for an organizer training. At the training, these young members will hear from a stalwart in the New York City Labor movement, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 3 Business Manager Chris Erikson. UCOMM has previously reported that Local 3 members at Spectrum Communications have been on strike for nearly seven months in their fight for a fair contract.

While many millennials have come up with new ways to protest like writing a scathing editorial on Medium or changing their Facebook profile picture, these actions often involve speaking to their friends, family and the company through digital means. While that can be effective, Erikson will be speaking to them about the more traditional tactics.

A great example of the new and old coming together will be on October 30th, when Local 3 brings their strike to the crossroads of the world, Time Square. The rally, in the heart of New York City, will be a melting pot of Building Trades members, craft union members, and public employees. The rally will feature traditional tactics like chants and marches, as well as integrating new media tools to expand the reach of the rally.

With unions like WGA East continuing to organize new, younger members and Local 3 taking on major, precedent-setting fights that will impact future contracts, wages, and benefits for tens of thousands of workers, the labor movement will continue to grow and be strong. By bringing them together to share best practices and to stand as a united front, these two unions are helping to ensure that we meet the challenges, like Janus and a national Right-to-Work, head on and with a strong and united union movement.

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