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Using Social Media to Build the IWW

By x344543 - revised July 1, 2011.

Visitors to iww.org will notice (on all pages in the upper right hand corner of the website just below the banner) a series of square red buttons with logos in them. Many of you may be familiar with these logos as they include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and RSS feed logos among others. They are featured on many websites of organizations, businesses, and news portals and they are designed to interface a website (considered Web 1.0) into the ever growing web of social media (Web 2.0).

The IWW is no exception.

Web 1.0 includes web pages, email lists, and email accounts.

Web 2.0 includes social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter among others.

Social Media combines elements of both "Web 1.0" and "Web 2.0".

In the case of iww.org this includes the following:

All of these "extras" potentially represent part of an ongoing effort to expand and enhance the IWW's ability to organize and build working class solidarity.

We can use social media to provide the widest range of possibilities and reach the greatest number of supporters. We can also use them to keep our peripheral supporters in our sphere of influence.

Traditional Web 1.0 alone is unable to provide these tools, primarily because it's not where most of our current and potential members and supporters are at. A sizable number of people use Facebook and lots of individuals and organizations use Twitter. Just about everyone has an email account. The IWW will be stronger if it organizes where workers are at, not necessarily where we'd like workers to be (at first).

Still another reality is that, while the IWW has always been able to maintain a solid core of members with some degree of organizational cohesion (and the size of that core has changed over time), there remains a much larger periphery that the IWW has always had difficulty connecting with.

That periphery includes former members (who paid dues one time and never paid dues again), sporadic members (members who pay dues on and off, but never consistently), fellow travelers (who support the IWW but do not join for various reasons), and people who would become members, but for various reasons we cannot immediately reach (such as people living in areas far away from current, core IWW activity).

"Web 1.0" helps us reach some of these people in the "periphery"; web 2.0 can help us reach a much greater number.

The periphery could represent anywhere from 1 to 100s of times greater than our core membership. If we can build a stable communications network with this periphery, we can potentially mobilize a much greater base of support to directly assist us in our organizing efforts.

Think of the potential. For example, if the IWW has 2500 members and we need to organize a nationwide (or international) "phone zap", "fax blast", or "mass email"; an informational picket against multiple targets of the same corporation in multiple cities; or a coordinated organizing effort, we can use traditional "Web 1.0" to do this, but we can be far more effective if our 2500 members can reach ten times as many (for example).

If we each build our international Facebook, Twitter, UnionBook, YouTube, and public email list resources to 10,000s, and each of our branches, shops, industrial unions, committees, and Regional Organizing Committees also have similar local versions of the same, each with a growing list of supporters (perhaps numbering in the 1,000s each), and we have maybe five or six dozen local and/or industrial IWW formations of one sort or another, by doing the math, it's easy to see that already we have the potential to build a network of 100,000s today!  Think of the possibilities!

 

Building the Networks

We will achieve the greatest success if all IWW members, delegates, officers, branches, shops, industrial unions, committees, organizing campaigns, and projects use and promote these resources. The IWW needs you, the membership, to build its network of support.

Remember that old saying, "if each IWW member signs up a new IWW member each week, we could have a 4-hour work-day within a month" (or some variation of that)? Extend that thinking to social media. We can do this. Here's how:

  • Facebook:  Join the main IWW Facebook group. Encourage your fellow workers, supporters, and friends to do so as well. Join your local / industrial IWW formation's Facebook group (or "like" the fan page or "friend" the individual, or whatever). If one doesn't exist, create one.

  • Twitter:  Follow the main Twitter page. Encourage your fellow workers, supporters, and friends to do so as well. Follow your local / industrial IWW formation's Twitter Feed. If one doesn't exist, create one.

  • UnionBook:  Join the main IWW UnionBook group. Encourage your fellow workers, supporters, and friends to do so as well. Join your local / industrial IWW formation's UnionBook group. If one doesn't exist, create one.

  • YouTube: Subscribe to the IWW YouTube Channel.  Encourage your fellow workers, supporters, and friends to do so as well.  Join your local / industrial IWW formation's YouTube Channel.  If one doesn't exist, create one.

  • Alerts List:  Subscribe to this email list. Encourage your fellow workers, supporters, and friends to do so as well.

Subscribe to your local / industrial IWW formation's local public email list. If one doesn't exist, create one (visit this page for details - http://www.iww.org/en/content/request-iwworg-email-list).

  • RSS Feeds:  Subscribe; use the RSS reader feature on your smart phones, email programs, etc. Encourage your fellow workers, supporters, and friends to do so as well.

 

Examples of Social Networking Potential

Already the IWW has begun to flex its growing social media / networking muscles to some success. Many times, the IWW has used Facebook to request that members and supporters protest illegal / union busting action by managers of various targeted shops by texting, calling, and/or emailing the managers in question. On a few occasions this has worked in winning back the jobs of our fellow workers.

Also, the IWW organized its MLK Starbucks Action in early 2011 using social media to expand the score of the actions to many additional cities. Facebook played a role in this effort.

Recently, when Jimmy Johns fired seven of our members for taking action to protest the company's policy on sick days, the IWW suggested--to its main Facebook group members--that they "like" Jimmy John's Facebook fan page and then proceed to protest the company's actions there. Within an hour, the IWW had occupied the Jimmy Johns Facebook fan page and dominated their "wall" for a period of over two weeks. While there may have been a much more effective way to deliver the message, and a more effective strategy (such as each IWW members and/or supporter adopting five of Jimmy John's "fans" and attempting to dialog with each of them personally) this example shows the potential we have to mobilize and/or reach 100,000s if not millions!

The power to build these networks and mobilize many more supporters than many of us generally imagine is already within our grasp. Let's strike while the iron is hot and do it!