August 6, 2007

Unionizing Bloggers?

Marc Comtois

Only the "reality-based" community could come up with this:

...a loosely formed coalition of left-leaning bloggers are trying to band together to form a labor union they hope will help them receive health insurance, conduct collective bargaining or even set professional standards.

"I think people have just gotten to the point where people outside the blogosphere understand the value of what it is that we do on the progressive side," said Susie Madrak, the author of Suburban Guerilla blog, who is active in the union campaign. "And I think they feel a little more entitled to ask for something now."

But just what that something is may be hard to say.

In a world as diverse, vocal and unwieldy as the blogosphere, there's no consensus about what type of organization is needed and who should be included. Some argue for a free-standing association for activist bloggers while others suggest a guild open to any blogger -- from knitting fans to video gamers -- that could be created within established labor groups.

Others see a blogger coalition as a way to find health insurance discounts, fight for press credentials or even establish guidelines for dealing with advertising and presenting data on page views.

"It would raise the professionalism," said Leslie Robinson, a writer at "Maybe we could get more jobs, bona fide jobs."

While bloggers work to organize their own labor movement, their growing numbers are already being courted by some unions.

"Bloggers are on our radar screen right now for approaching and recruiting into the union," said Gerry Colby, president of the National Writers Union, a local of the United Auto Workers. "We're trying to develop strategies to reach bloggers and encourage them to join."
Sitting at a panel titled "A Union for Bloggers: It's Time to Organize" at this week's YearlyKos Convention for bloggers in Chicago, [Kirsten] Burgard said she'd welcome a chance to join a unionized blogging community.

"I sure would like to have that union bug on my Web site," said Burgard, a blogger who uses the moniker Bendy Girl.

Madrak hopes that regardless the form, the labor movement ultimately will help bloggers pay for medical bills. It's important, she said, because some bloggers can spend hours a day tethered to computers as they update their Web sites.

"Blogging is very intense -- physically, mentally," she said. "You're constantly scanning for news. You're constantly trying to come up with information that you think will mobilize your readers. In the meantime, you're sitting at a computer and your ass is getting wider and your arm and neck and shoulder are wearing out because you're constantly using a mouse."

Sheesh. Yes, they're serious. At least the KOS crowd. Not everyone is too keen on the idea, though:
"The reason I like blogging is that it's very anarchistic. I can do whatever I want whenever I want, and oh my God, you're not going to tell me what to do," said Curt Hopkins, the founder of the Committee to Protect Bloggers.

"The blogosphere is such a weird term and such a weird idea. It's anyone who wants to do it," Hopkins said. "There's absolutely no commonality there. How will they find a commonality to go on? I think it's doomed to failure on any sort of large scale."

Unsurprisingly, there's decidedly less support for a union movement among conservative bloggers.

Mark Noonan, an editor at Blogs for Bush and a senior writer at GOP Bloggers, said he worries that a blogger union would undermine the freewheeling nature of the blogosphere, regardless of its political composition.

"We just go out there and write what is on our mind, damn the critics," he said. "To make a union is to start to provide a firm structure for the blogosphere and that would merely make the blogosphere a junior-league (mainstream media). ... Get us a union and other 'professional' organizations and we'll start to be conformist and we'll start to be just another special interest."

I can see it now: Anchor Rising becomes targeted as a "scab blog". Will there be "virtual picketing"? An electronic "card check"?

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Uhhh, unions are formed as a counterweight to the power of those who employer the union members.

Help me out here - who is the employer?

Reality based? These folks are barking mad. Maybe they'll look for Federal and State BlogLaureate positions?

Posted by: chcuckR at August 6, 2007 12:15 PM

C'mon Chuck, it's obvious. They're unionizing against "the man"!

Posted by: Marc Comtois at August 6, 2007 12:28 PM

Glad to see Chuck's comment, because I assumed that I must have missed something . . . i.e., who is the rich factory owner in this tableau?

Don't bloggers work for themselves??

I'm afraid the negotiations with management would be (to paraphrase from Casablanca) a trifle one-sided . . .

Posted by: brassband at August 6, 2007 12:40 PM

Only liberal morons would be all excited about trying to unionize the counter culture.

I blog. And I don't want to pay dues or have anyone tell me that what I just posted was outside of the guidelines.

Posted by: Greg at August 6, 2007 1:01 PM

Hmmmm, they DO work for the Democratic Party. What would it take to get them to understand this? I'd gladly contribute to help them create picket signs that said "Democrat Party UNFAIR to Progessyve Union Bloggers". Rollout of campaign at '08 Dem convention.

Meanwhile; back in Rhode Island...

Mr. X: Pssst, hey Marc
Marc: Wha!
Mr. X: Nice little blog you got here. Shame if something were to happen to it, know what I mean?
Marc: Now, wait just one...
Mr. X: No, no, me an' the boys were thinkin' it over an' we think that with a little more 'diligence' on your part, we could see fit to make you the RI State Capo di tutti Bloggo. In recognition of the effort, we would compensate you at an appropriate level. How's about, say, what a Traffic Magistrate makes? Equally important. Five year deal if you keep your nose clean.
Marc: (thinking, then brightens) Gee, Mr. Representative/union boss, you're swell!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~The End~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Posted by: chuckR at August 6, 2007 1:17 PM

Reminds me of that commercial where the boss says "I love sticking it to the man" and the employee responds "but you ARE the man."

Posted by: Anthony at August 6, 2007 1:33 PM

Well, since I happened to be in the AR neighborhood anyway - Unions serve many purposes, and come in many forms - many writers are already members of the NWU, a description of which follows (from the NWU website):

"The National Writers Union is the trade union for freelance and contract writers: journalists, book authors, business and technical writers, web content providers, and poets. With the combined strength of nearly 2,000 members in 16 chapters nationwide, and with the support of the United Automobile Workers (UAW), the Union works to defend the rights and improve the economic and working conditions of all writers."

It makes sense that some Bloggers might look for the resources that union-membership could provide.

Posted by: Bob Walsh at August 6, 2007 6:26 PM

The bloggers are "management", isn't it the commenters who should organize?

Posted by: Noted Skeptic at August 6, 2007 8:37 PM

(I'm back!)

If I comment more than 8 times a day, am I entitled to time and a half? How about Sundays?

Unions exist almost solely for the benefit of their members -- at the expense of employers and / or consumers (though of course they don't see it that way). It's a socialist construct totally at odds with the open, free-wheeling spirit behind the blogging phenomenon.

I had initially assumed that the idea was a joke, but if they're serious, I'm pretty sure that it's an effort that will result in complete and utter failure (Air America comes to mind). I still don't understand "the point" of it. Blogs have no "real" value, besides the amount of money that can be charged for ads which are placed on them. You start charging too much for ads -- when we all have millions of choices -- and advertisers still simply stop advertising on them. Unions only function (as intended) when choices are severely limited or where monopolies exist. The problem with most unions, is that enough never seems to be good enough. They always want more. Give a mouse a cookie, and he'll ask for a glass of milk.

What is the benefit to anyone -- especially consumers -- of unionizing anything, other than to reduce its quality and to make it less efficient, lazier, and "entitled" (will they be entitled to two coffee breaks and an hour lunch, too?). The whole concept is anathema to what makes blogging different from other "traditional" forms of media.

Posted by: Will at August 6, 2007 10:52 PM

A hilarious testament to the liberal mind. These lefty blogs already fit the union model, i.e. no thinking required.

Posted by: Tim at August 7, 2007 7:37 AM

I'm looking forward to their first strike. Don't forget the giant, inflatable rat, people.

However, in the event of a strike, some questions arise:

- As Marc pointed out, who and where would they picket?

- Could they resist blogging real-time at their own picket line?

- If not, would they not effectively be ending their own labor stoppage?

Posted by: SusanD at August 7, 2007 8:03 AM

OK, we've had our fun.

Can we move on to something really important now?

How about this -- the lead is now down to SIX GAMES . . . ?!

Is anybody else ready to panic???

Posted by: brassband at August 7, 2007 9:45 AM

The Red Sox will prevail. After all, every player on the team is a union member! (See the editorial page of today's ProJo for a very funny analysis of baseball in from a Harry Potter viewpoint.)

Posted by: Bob Walsh at August 7, 2007 9:58 AM

HA! And they're all overpaid to play a game college kids would cut off a left nut to play, too.

Posted by: Greg at August 7, 2007 10:36 AM

"After all, every player on the team is a union member!"

Yeah... that's why we all get the "privledge" of shelling out hundreds of dollars if we want to see them in person, play around for a few hour with a ball in a field. Best I know, aren't they required to belong to the union?

Posted by: Will at August 7, 2007 11:45 AM

I don't know if they're required to be a part of the union or not. During strike years owners had no problems bringing in replacements--but the pressure to join would be really heavy in the locker room.

I could care less if baseball teams or private companies want to unionize. If the market will allow $100 tickets, great. If unions want to run the auto industry and management allow it, fine.

It explains why American automakers now hold less then 50% of the US market for the first time since the invention of the automobile, but that's their choice. Consumers can choose to buy other vehicles and they are doing so.

I have a bigger problem with unions that represent "public servants" living off of taxpayer money. Taxpayers can't choose to go to a different DMV. Instead they have to put up with the one they've got and pay through the nose for it.

As for bloggers, let them strike. The Internet wouldn't suffer from losing those bloggers who feel they should join a union.

Posted by: Anthony at August 7, 2007 1:51 PM

"I have a bigger problem with unions that represent "public servants" living off of taxpayer money."

The sharp distinction between public and private labor unions cannot be pointed out often enough. Jorge Nee tries to put them under the same tent but this is wrong and insulting to private labor unions. Private labor unions are on one side of the bargaining table; public labor unions (in Rhode Island, at least) are on both sides of the table. Further, members of private labor unions, along with several hundred thousand other working Rhode Islanders, pay for the very generous compensation of public union members.

There are a couple of other important differences but my brain begins working to rule around this time of the day ...

Posted by: SusanD at August 7, 2007 9:09 PM
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