My 6 Weeks at UCOMM
An intern's perspective of working for organized labor's most progressive ad agency
Hey guys, it’s Mohammed Sarker, the intern at UCOMM, heading back to school soon. As a result, my internship at UCOMM is officially finished. What isn’t finished, however, is my continued involvement with the Labor Movement. Many people have interned at UCOMM over the years for a variety of reasons, like developing marketing or communications skills. To be rather frank, I had no idea what I was even signing up for back when I sent my first email to Brian, all I knew was that I wanted a chance to gain a better understanding of Labor’s Rank and File, to see Labor in action. This simple desire has really taken me along a far path, and let me meet many interesting people.
I have to thank my high school economics teacher for teaching me about the importance of Unions as well as pointing me towards opportunities to learn more about the movement. I found out about a Labor town hall that then-Congressman Joe Crowley was hosting, allowing me to meet with the New York City Central Labor Council (CLC) as well as various local labor and elected officials. From that event, I was able to establish a correspondence with the CLC, and eventually work for them.
While procrastinating on Facebook I found a page that many of my friends were following, UCOMM Blog. I read an article from the blog and was instantly hooked. UCOMM became one of my media staples, being my source of “Labor News.” After completing my stint with the CLC, I was looking around for summer work. During a watch party for the first Democratic Primary Debate, I bumped into a guy wearing a bright red UCOMM shirt. Very hard to miss. His name was Dan, a former intern at UCOMM. I remembered the articles that I read and immediately began asking Dan about his experiences at UCOMM, after which he recommended that I apply, so I could gain a feel for what “labor’s really about.” Immediately, a lightbulb lit in my head as I realized right then and there, that I found what I wanted to do for the summer: to work at UCOMM.
I took a complete leap of faith and sent an email. I got a request for an interview in some distant land called Long Island. Yeah, I’m a real city kid. 2 hours and $14.50 in LIRR money later, I was waiting inside the office, when Brian sent me down the hall to the UCOMM recording studio, where they host UCOMM Live. It was a Thursday, podcast day, so I got to meet James, the audio specialist and the man himself: Kris LaGrange. He was doing a commercial and asked me to come over and yell “NYSUT TEACHERS” into the mic as the closing line of the commercial. It took me 2 or 3 tries to enunciate right, but it felt fun, and I thought to myself “Yeah I can see myself doing this for a summer.” This was only the tip of the iceberg.
Over the next 6 weeks, I did all kinds of different things with the trio over at UCOMM: Brian, Ryan, and Kris. With Brian, I learned how to use email marketing software like Constant Contact and learned how to create professional-looking emails that we’d send out to various locals every other week. With Ryan, I learned the basics of video editing software like Final Cut Pro and had to do some basic editing of footage that we’d later upload onto various Union’s websites. I definitely felt a lot of pride seeing my footage uploaded onto Local 3 IBEW's website, a local with over 20,000 members. With Kris, I got to go onto manufacturing and construction sites and do basic workplace organizing. I had to learn basic photography on the fly, as well as help, enroll rank and file members to the Local newsletter, which would help promote democracy within their union. All of this will help build momentum for the upcoming Labor Day Parade, where I’ll help UCOMM out with a final post-internship assignment. Our Mission? To get 8,500 Local 3 members to lead the parade this year.
And with that, I have to give a final thanks to Kris, Brian, and Ryan. The trio at UCOMM has taught me so much regarding technical skills, but just as importantly, the culture around Organized Labor and Working America. I’ve been able to develop my social skills in order to talk to people from different backgrounds from my own more effectively and I’ve had a total blast doing it. No day in UCOMM is the same as I’m doing spreadsheet and office work on Long Island one day, and running to a factory in Long Island City another day. For my final workplace assignment, I got to visit several schools under construction in the Bronx, and Kris and I were joined by Dan, the very same guy who got me interested in working for UCOMM. In that way, I definitely felt like I came full circle.
Traveling two hours back and forth from the city for an internship about 40 hours a week was definitely a challenge, but it was easily well worth it. For any high school or college students reading this piece, I can definitely recommend the internship at UCOMM.
This is NOT the end of my work with the Labor Movement.