A Union Calls a Twitter Strike: Will Anyone Notice (or Care)?

In the mid to late-1960s, before the advent of the internet and blogging (before the founders of Google, Facebook and Twitter were even born), there used to be a show on television called Gilligan’s Island. For those of you old enough to remember it (or to catch the reruns), you may remember the episode about a Japanese sailor who, not knowing that WWII had ended 20+ years earlier, ran around the island capturing the castaways of the SS Minnow.

In many ways, that Gilligan’s Island episode (view it here) is remarkably analogous to today’s unions. Like the Japanese sailor who does not realize that time has gone on without him, today’s union bosses are living in the past as well. Even worse, they don’t seem to realize that time has literally passed them by.

Consider, for example, the Huffington Post e-strike. In days of old, when a union called a strike, people took notice. Charities would pitch in with food, people would donate to the strike fund, and the picket line would be respected. That was so…yesterday.

Today, nearly all of HuffPo’s content being posted by progressive “scabs,” in defiance of the Newspaper Guild’s plea to honor the e-picket line by withholding their content:

…we are asking that our members and all supporters of fair and equitable compensation for journalists join us in shining a light on the unprofessional and unethical practices of this company.

Just as we would ask writers to stand fast and not cross a physical picket line, we ask that they honor this electronic picket line.

So much for “solidarity” in the age of the internet. In an age when nearly 70% of Americans would cross a picket line, not even the president of the AFL-CIO is completely honoring the Huffington Post e-picket line. In fact, there hasn’t been a word of support for the e-strikers from the normally verbose union boss.

Now comes this latest gem.

Representatives for the News Media Guild are urging union employees of the Associated Press not to promote their stories on Facebook or Twitter early next week.

Reporters often volunteer to spread links out of good will for their employer or for obvious narcissistic reasons. The labor union is discouraging people whose job explicitly entails using social-networking services from participating in the boycott.

Executives for the AP wire services and the News Media Guild will reconvene starting on Monday to resume contract negotiations, said Tony Winton, the union’s president.

“We’re trying to basically communicate through social media the unity of our group in trying to negotiate a fair contract with AP,” said Winton, an AP reporter currently taking a leave of absence.


To complement the internet silence, the guild is also helping to organize rallies at AP bureaus, according to an email from a union organizer that was obtained by the Poynter Institute. In the past, AP reporters have withheld their names from appearing in their stories’ bylines.

The social-media protests will take place on Monday and Tuesday, during the next set of in-person negotiations between the two parties. [Emphasis added.]

Now, the question becomes, in this age of the internet, does anyone really care whether AP’s reporters don’t tweet their own work? Would anyone even notice? When are union bosses going to learn, like the Japanese sailor on Gilligan’s Island, that life has moved on without them?


“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776


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