Panel Discussion: Labor and the Media: Labor Adapts its Message to Changing Media Environments
Thurs., May 20, 2021
7 p.m. ET
Meeting ID: 820 0054 2861
Organized by the New York Labor History Association and co-sponsored by ILCA, the Metro NY Labor Communications Council, United Hebrew Trades, the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, and the New York Jewish Labor Committee.
Google and Facebook recently announced that employees will work from home until mid 2021. This confirms the intuitive sense that the remote situation isn’t just a short-term emergency response. It will be a while.
Like it or not, online meetings are standard practice. Here are a few resources to make the most of the brave, new, digital-only meeting room.
On its blog, AFGE presents 8 Video Conference Tips for Union Activists:
The AFL-CIO conducted a training entitled Video Tools and Processes: Zoom, Interviews, and Editing. Use password Video123! to view the recording. Follow along with the slides.
Wired magazine explains How to Make Your Video Calls Look and Sound Better. The subhead alone contains some key guidance: “Natural light is your friend. Audio feedback is your worst enemy.” Heed the tips so you’re not that square on the Zoom meeting.
Every labor communicator is responding to minute-by-minute changes in policies and practices affecting workers’ livelihoods. ILCA members are challenged to process, manage and disseminate essential information to both internal and external audiences. Just by doing our work, labor communicators are producing real-time, textbook examples of crisis communications case studies. In this series, we’re profiling national newsmakers who are amplifying labor’s call to protect the physical and economic health of workers. We’re looking at the strategies and tactics shaping their crisis communications to extract lessons and best practices that are proving effective in this demanding moment.
The situation: Every American knows that the United States Postal Service delivers medicine, paychecks and other essentials of life. What’s more, postal employees are woven into the social fabric of the communities they serve. Residents see their familiar letter carriers delivering to households six or even seven days a week. Other job classifications are working in post offices, sorting facilities, and warehouses to route mail to the people depending on it. Workers and the public share the same interdependent goals – to uphold essential jobs and effective service delivery. The Postal Service is under unprecedented attack from the White House and corporate interests that want to see privatized postal delivery. As always, labor is fighting back, supported by allies from all walks of life.
Postal people speak: Postal employee unions are letting their members do the talking. On the NALC Heroes Delivering website, viewers can find videos of the union’s paid ads featuring workers. And letter carriers are getting the message out in letters, op-eds and interviews in news stories around the country.
The campaign got a boost from the AFL-CIO communications shop, which produced this video featuring a letter carrier.
NALC is using its Twitter feed to spotlight its members, telling short stories about the socially beneficial and sometimes life-saving assistance that members lend to people in need.
The union also is posting news developments combined with a call to action.
Postal day of action: APWU took the lead to stage a Day of Action on June 23. It centered around a Washington, D.C., car caravan to deliver #SaveThePostOffice petitions to Congress.
Here’s a short APWU video urging the public to lobby for postal service funding.
Here’s an hourlong video of the APWU and allies delivering more than two million petition signatures to the Senate.
These videos and much more appear on the APWU’s campaign page.
Celebrity endorsements: APWU enlisted the support of celebrities to advocate for the Postal Service.
Here’s a public service announcement from actor Danny Glover, the son of two postal workers.
Page one: A letter carrier was profiled on A1 of the Sunday Los Angeles Times, among other small and large newspapers nationwide.
Communications strategies: NALC Communications Director Phil Dine summarizes the campaign status. “With the drop in letter mail volume resulting from the pandemic-caused economic shutdown, the Postal Service — which operates on earned revenue, not on taxpayer money — is feeling the impact, as are other sectors of the economy,” Dine says. “Letter mail is the most profitable mail revenue stream and it has dipped significantly. As a result, temporary federal financial assistance during the pandemic is necessary for the Postal Service, as it is for other sectors of the economy. At the very time the Postal Service is facing this financial crisis, USPS is more necessary than ever, with letter carriers and other postal employees putting themselves at risk by doing their jobs so tens of millions of Americans can shelter at home and help bend the curve of the virus. NALC is letting Americans, and their elected representatives, know this by getting the word out through the news media.”
Here are some of the ways APWU Communications Director Emily Harris has found success. In her words:
Here are some of the ways the NALC’s Dine has found success. In his words:
“We deliver the essential points to the public through the media. Among them: the U.S. Postal Service is based in the Constitution. It is by far the most popular federal agency, with more than 90 percent approval from Americans of all political views and in all regions, meaning that this is not a partisan issue. It earns its revenue by selling stamps and other products and services. It is critical for businesses, small and large, and for the elderly.
“USPS is a lifeline for rural communities and center of civic life for small towns. Through its universal network, it delivers to every home and address in the country for the same price, regardless of zip code. It is the centerpiece of the $1.3-trillion national mailing industry, which employs seven million Americans in the private sector. It is the largest employer of military veterans in the country, with nearly one-quarter of letter carriers and other postal employees wearing their second uniform.
“The USPS provides Americans with the most affordable postal services of any industrial country. On a daily basis, letter carriers notice fires, medical emergencies, missing children, crimes in progress, and traffic accidents. By stepping in or calling for help, letter carriers save lives.
“We regularly get these points (and, more broadly, the public’s stake in all this) across in letters or commentary pieces in newspapers, from national papers to local ones; in print, television or radio interviews; or by informing reporters working on news stories. Biggest single key: talk directly to individual editors, producers or reporters; do not rely on press releases or emails. And tell them why they and their audience should care.”
If you have a question for the communications strategists profiled here, please post a comment below or send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you value this type of peer-to-peer learning, please support ILCA so we can continue to produce this series. Please renew your membership today and enter our annual Labor Media Awards contest.
The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades is hiring a creative content producer to join our team and make a difference in the lives of working people. This person is responsible for implementing our multimedia storytelling strategy and works closely with other members of the communications team and staff to create compelling content that educates, inspires, engages and informs a broad range of audiences about our programs and campaigns. The ideal candidate will have a passion for social justice and is excited to use storytelling to simplify complex ideas and drive narrative change. The successful candidate will be responsible for creating original text and video content while managing the IUPAT’s various social media platforms.
This position is based in our Hanover, MD office and will be supervised by the Communications Director.
How to apply:
Submit resume, relevant video/digital samples, references, and cover letter/letter of interest to jdoherty at iupat org.
The IUPAT is an affirmative action employer and strongly encourages people of color, women, l/g/b/t/q individuals, those with disabilities, and those with working-class backgrounds to apply.
Salary and benefits: The Creative Content Producer – Social Media Manager position offers a competitive salary, depending on experience. The IUPAT is an Equal Opportunity Employer and provides a competitive benefits package that includes paid vacation, medical, dental, retirement, and professional development benefits.
Every labor communicator is responding to minute-by-minute changes in policies and practices affecting workers’ livelihoods. ILCA members are challenged to process, manage, and disseminate essential information to both internal and external audiences. Just by doing our work, labor communicators are producing real-time, textbook examples of crisis communications case studies. In this new series, we’ll profile national newsmakers who are amplifying labor’s call to protect the physical and economic health of workers. We’ll look at the strategies and tactics shaping their crisis communications to extract lessons and best practices that are proving effective in this demanding moment.
Union: American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)
Communications Strategist: Andrew Huddleston, AFGE Communications Director and ILCA Executive Council member
The situation: “We represent 700,000 employees in 70 federal agencies, spread across the U.S. and around the globe,” says Huddleston. “What we’ve done is pursue a strategy of rotating, targeted aggression among agencies. We’re focused around a few simple, easy-to-understand central themes: Lack of proper PPE and testing, lack of proper telework and leave policies to accommodate workers, hiring freezes and resulting short-staffing and its impact on readiness and response, and the way anti-union actions by this administration have hampered the response to COVID-19. You may have also seen that we’ve sued the federal government for hazardous duty pay on behalf of all federal employees forced to expose themselves to the novel coronavirus.
“We began our initial response at Social Security and Customs and Immigration, where our early stories about telework pushed the Office of Personnel Management to issue stronger and stronger guidance. We moved to TSA, where we pressured the administration into providing N95 masks for TSOs. At the Bureau of Prisons, our media work helped stem the flow of inmate transfers throughout the country.
“We’re pairing that media strategy with an internal communications strategy that includes daily email alerts and digital actions for our local leaders, weekly updates for our members specifically about coronavirus, p2p and mass texting, and a weekly email highlighting our media work so our members understand our level of visibility. We are also exploring options for a potential digital advertising buy.”
In late April, AFGE targeted the Veterans Administration. In partnership with other unions representing VA workers, AFGE co-organized joint actions, letters, and statements.
Here are some media tactics AFGE used:
Sometimes a populist meme sends just the right message.
As it continues to assess individual agencies, the union is reinforcing its principles for returning to work. Labor communicators are encouraged to follow AFGE’s microsite and social media accounts for updates.
If you have a question for the communications strategist profiled here, please post a comment below or on Facebook. You can also send it to email@example.com. If you value this type of peer-to-peer learning, please support ILCA so we can continue to produce this series. Please renew your membership today and enter our annual Labor Media Awards contest.
Visit this AFL-CIO webpage for updated information and resources.
Thanks to everyone who made the 2019 convention a great success.
We gained knowledge and changed our perspectives in ways large and/or small. Here are some summaries of the Nov. 14-15 events.
Hearty congratulations to the award winners. To spread or replicate the pride, order duplicate awards here.
ILCA Executive Council member DeLane Adams interviewed President Lisa Martin on the Machinists daily live news show. View the Oct. 16 segment about ILCA, our convention, and our member-powered organization sustained by you. This video is the full broadcast. President Martin is the first guest and appears at the beginning. Alternatively, you can view this snippet to jump right to the interview.
As ILCA prepares for its November convention, we find the stage effectively set via Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present, and Future of American Labor, the new book by respected labor journalist Steven Greenhouse. In our version of Cliff’s Notes, we’ve compiled excerpts to present a sense of the book.
The jacket cover defines it as “an in-depth look at working men and women in America, the challenges they face, and the ways in which they can be re-empowered.”
On the back cover, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich critiqued the book this way.
In this riveting account of the rise and fall of organized labor, Steven Greenhouse tells the stories of courageous men and women who put their jobs and often their lives on the line to help American workers gain the income and the dignity they deserve. Greenhouse outlines how a workers’ movement could be rekindled, and why it must be. Deeply inspiring and profoundly important.
On the subject of labor communications, Greenhouse draws this conclusion.
Unions also need to do a better job communicating. Many unions are headed by shrewd tacticians who do a fine job wrestling with management at the bargaining table but do far less well conveying labor’s message on television or to the public, or even to workers in their industry. To get labor’s message across — and, importantly, to attract and inspire young workers (and to obtain TV and radio bookings) — every national union should appoint a smart, appealing young spokesperson or policy director. If union presidents fear that this person will eclipse them in the public eye, that’s a risk that must be taken to do what’s best for the nation’s workers.
Let’s carry on the conversation in person. See you in D.C. in November.