There was an interesting post in The New York Times today about labor unions’ use of social media to better inform members on negotiations, solicit ideas and also to rebut rumors. To be sure, unions are also using Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other digital connections to build momentum for organizing attempts as well.
As unions embrace technology, so must employers. Here are several initial thoughts to consider:
Better monitoring. As unions conduct more digitial dialogue , the ability for companies to monitor those discussions becomes easier. Comprehensive online monitoring systems will probably be a better indicator of a union’s demands than the “watercooler talk” checks of the past. This should eliminate some surprises if there is a rift with the union.
More accountability? Employees who are considering collective representation may not be aware that union campaign promises are considered to be unenforceable “pre-election propaganda” by most courts. Which means that unions can make many promises in order to unionize a workforce, but they don’t have to honor any of those promises once successful. (Companies cannot play by the same rules.) Since campaign promises — and negotiation particulars — are migrating from leaflets to digital networks there will remain an ongoing, searchable digital record of those promises. This means that the union rank-and-file can seek greater accountability of union leadership and employers can begin to better highlight when / if there are descrepancies.
More opportunity. Whether a workforce is unionized or not, employers will have an advantage if they are able to collect, analzye and take actions based on direct employee feedback through social media. These companies will likely enjoy a healthier relationship with unionized employees (perhaps heading into a negotiation/contract period), or avoid unionization altogether if that is the goal.
Thoughts? Share them below, please.