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Using Skype to Engage Distant Members

CWA 13101 is using Skype to help their members engage in union meetings across the state

Kris LaGrange's picture
Mar 02, 2018

Technology has helped to democratize many different industries. Now anyone with a cellphone can be a journalist. Twitter has helped spark revolutions all over the world and Skype is helping some unions get their members more involved.

Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 13101 represents Verizon workers and some public employees in Delaware. While many people think of Delaware as another stop on the drive from NYC to Washington D.C. the state is actually quite long. For the 50 members of the local that work in the Southern part of the state, attending union meetings would require an hour drive each way. Since they are so spread out many don’t even come back to the yard at night so they might not see their co-workers for days on end. Instead, shop steward Vicky Colbourne worked with President Jim Ryan to establish a video connection at the meeting. The members meet up at a local restaurant and then use Skype to call into the meeting. They are able to view the meeting and interact with their fellow members.

Colbourne came up with the idea after she took part in a CWA Teleconference call around the CWA strike against Verizon in 2016. When a member called in they were told the number of callers who were currently on the call. The next day, all that people could talk about was their number and how many people actually called in. They realized that they were part of something much bigger than just a few people in their area. By Skyping into meetings, this keeps up that same feeling. She has gotten such a positive reaction from her members that she hopes the CWA will continue to do these calls on a regular basis.

One thing holding unions back from doing big national teleconferences is the cost. While a one to one Skype call is free, a big teleconference town hall like the one CWA did, can cost 7-10 cents per minute per caller. While this cost would be exorbitant for most local unions there are other solutions. Go to Meeting, offers video conferencing as well as the ability to record, share screens, and a number of other tools. They have different plans, but their base plan that allows 100 people to participate is only $50 a month. A small price to pay for a more engaged membership.

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