Knowledge Donors for Labor Fights


These days there are many new ways for people who are not members of a labor union to participate in the labor movement.
In addition to working with existing unions people can become members of Working America or join the OWS offshoot 99 Pickets.  If you work in the sector they represent you can join the Freelancers Union, OUR Walmart, Fast Food Forward or one of the many new worker centers like the Restaurant Opportunities Center. or Retail Action Project. Unions as well as these newer entities are all making calls for solidarity from the public in the form of petition signatures, help with picketing and demonstrations, boycotts, and help spreading the word on social media. But with rare exceptions, they do not have a structure for engaging with skilled volunteers – what many are calling knowledge donors.

Managing volunteers can be a challenge no matter what; but managing knowledge donors is a step beyond that. Organizations that have relied on groups of interchangeable supporters to show up at a certain time, perform an action, and then go home aren’t always able to handle individual volunteers with a specific skill. This can be complicated even more with tensions around volunteers who don’t represent your core constituency. What do you do with someone who isn’t even a member, might not come from the same community, and has a generational or class difference from the people they are trying to help? No wonder you won’t find many examples of knowledge donors in the labor world.

Organizing 2.0 is launching a new effort to recruit skilled volunteers who will be in service to labor and community organizing struggles. We’re looking specifically for digitally applicable skills, including social media proficiency, writing for the web, graphic design, online video, web development, trainers in digital tools and online advertising. These are the skill sets that (we observe) many union locals do not have. Even very large union locals are sometimes configured in such a way that staff are unable to run a real digital media campaign.

We have seen many cases where union locals go on strike — an action they have been preparing for for weeks or months — but don’t have a plan for social media outreach or any online communications. It’s only once the strike is imminent that they realize that they want additional support from the broader public and see the internet as a means for getting it and of putting pressure on the employer. However, the union local doesn’t have a plan for how to get that support or relationships with people who can help them. Sometimes they come to Organizing 2.0 for help at the last minute. We want to be able to do that at a larger scale. In particular, we want to help those who ‘don’t know who or how to ask.’

Our plan is to look for both knowledge donors and labor or community organizing fights that can benefit from them. By connecting and applying our knowledge and understanding of both labor and digital strategy, we can make a difference that is both meaningful and visible.

Of course, questions remain. Will we be able to recruit, train, manage and retain skilled volunteers? Will we find willing partners interested in their help? We think so but we’re not sure. As an organization run entirely by volunteers, everything we ever do has a certain question mark over it. But we do have a track record of training and engaging thousands of people at events over nearly four years. We’ve built an amazing Advisory Board (details coming soon!). And a great many of our peers working in the labor movement have offered encouragement and support for this new direction. Plus we’ve already done this on a micro scale for a few locals.

We can’t wait to find out. Meanwhile, everyone reading our post is encouraged to help us figure this out. Please – offer your suggestions and questions below, and sign up if you a)have skills and b)want to contribute them to help workers win labor fights.

The Future of the Left – A Conversation on Unity

This event is over! But it was great and you should have been there. This is what you missed:

Welcome to our event! We’re sitting at the livestream table at SEIU1199 near Times Square in New York City. The full description of the event is below the video feed.
Participate in the conversation via Twitter using the hashtag #futureleft

A conversation on left unityFuture of the Left

Chaired by Pat Fry – Left Labor Project

Opening remarks from Mark Solomon – Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. (Read the article that launched a thousand conversations.)

Responses by:

  • Bhaskar Sunkara, Editor – Jacobin Magazine
  • Libero Della Piana, Vice Chair – Communist Party USA
  • Maria Svart, National Director – Democratic Socialists of America
  • Eric Odell – Freedom Road Socialist Organization

After the conversation, join us for a reception with light food and beverages. We’d love to get to know you, and we hope to give you
the chance to meet and speak with other like-minded people!

Hosted by:

  • Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
  • Communist Party USA
  • Democratic Socialists of America
  • Freedom Road Socialist Organization

With participation and support from:
Jacobin Magazine | Left Labor Project | Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—New York Office | The Brecht Forum

Social Media Training Takeaways and Thankyous

Our ‘Fighting for Families’ social media training event is a week past. So what did we have and what’s left on our agenda?

If you want to skip over the thank yous and backslapping, click here. Otherwise, THANK YOU speakers/presenters, including Farra Trompeter of Big Duck, Beka Economopoulos of Fission Strategy, Donna Norton of MomsRising, Eliza Bates of 1199/SEIU, Greg Basta and Olivia Leirer of New York Communities for Change, Elizabeth Jenkins of 32BJ/SEIU and everyone who participated in the discussions.

Thank you Murphy Institute who once again made it possible for us to offer training at such low prices. Thank you to our sponsors, and especially Jocelyn Mazurkiewicz who brought them all together and initiated this training. Thank you to our loyal volunteers, many of whom actually paid for the privilege: Bob Daraio, Marisol Thomer, Edrie Irvine, Justin Krebs, Brad Gans & John Greaves (3Knights Media) and all the rest who just chipped in.

And of course, thank you Elana Levin, Chairman of Organizing 2.0, who led our last session and without whom very little of what we do would be possible.

Intro to Social Media for Organizations

Farra Trompeter’s presentation is available below. I was very pleased that she was able to come, and for our first session no less. It combines a lot of facts that some of us might already know with some great analysis and insight. It made a lot of us happy that she felt trusted enough to critique a certain union’s Twitter feed. We need more of that!

Unfortunately, I missed most of the day because of having to run around. We really need attendees to offer comments on lessons learned that deserve to be shared! That said, it feels right to offer a few notes that capture our intentions in planning the training.
There are many trainings in social media available these days. They are often aimed at small business, nonprofits, marketing & development staff and others with a strong need. Organizing 2.0′s contention is that unions and advocacy organizations are often ill-served by training that doesn’t take our specific needs into account. In the case of Fighting for Families, we were very well served by having a focus on family and worker issues like paid family leave and paid sick days. This meant our audience was mostly thinking about city and state advocacy on topics that have to fight pretty hard to get media attention. Attendees were used to working in coalitions, and many knew each other beforehand.
Our main goal was to give a very diverse group of volunteers, organizers and leaders a shared sense of how social media is used to advance our campaign mission, as opposed to competing goals like organizational branding or fundraising. Based on feedback, we seem to have accomplished this. What we did less of – and we’ve heard from attendees that they want more – is offer hands on skills training that go deep into specifics. Anything from practicing a campaign, to developing a written social media plan, to learning some Twitter analytics tools. We also heard a complaint that too much of the day was devoted to frontal presentations followed by Q and A, at the expense of truly interactive sessions that build on the experiences of people in the room.
For organizers thinking about ideas for future trainings or just keeping up with the demands of a complicated media- and tool-rich environment, there are some questions to think about:
  • What is your peer community for staying on top of social media? (Like NTEN, ProgEx, or something internal to your organization.)
  • At what stage do ideas about social media tools and tactics get introduced into campaign and strategic planning? Are the right people in the room to propose and evaluate new media strategies?
  • Are folks clear about the investment and return on your social media activities?
  • Is there a role for outside experts/consultants? How might you cultivate your ‘bench’ of advisers?

Is there anything else you’d like to share or learn about? Let us know!

Looking for a Few Good New Media Directors

Jason Rosenbaum

Like many of you on the Bold Progressive’s campaign list, I saw an email recruiting new media directors for congressional campaigns. As a close follower of how politicians are adapting to the shifting campaigning landscape, I had a few questions to ask. This interview is with Jason Rosenbaum of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

Organizing 2.0: I hear you are looking for a few good organizers….
Jason: Yes! New media directors, to be precise. [Job details here.]

Organizing 2.0: What’s the likely profile of these NMD’s? Are these positions that a congressional campaign would fill on its own, or are you supplying something they simply won’t have without you?
Jason: We’re looking for folks that have both great tech skills, but are also (and more importantly) talented strategic organizers who are motivated to help progressives run and win boldly. These are positions that a campaign might fill on their own, but is often filled with a Washington, DC based consultant or by someone less talented and committed.

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