July 1996

Labor movements historical association with technology seems as formulaic as an over-used recipe.

Combine the following:
1 wrench
1 machine of any type with cogs, wheels or hinges
1 moment when no one is looking

Alas, times have changed.

In the midst of big business' cut-throat frenzy to harness the Internet's potential for megabuck profits, labor's use of the medium to organize and inform has slipped quietly through the fray. Except for incestuous media coverage of the writers strikes such as the one at the Detroit Journal, the use of the Internet for union activity has gone unnoticed. For instance, sites exist for the following strikes:

Perhaps what's most intriguing about the presence of Labor groups on the Web is that even non-traditional labor groups such as Yale's Graduate Employees & Students Organization's Union (GESO) don't go unnoticed. Hence, the diversity of unions becomes more apparent on the Web.

Labor groups are clearly finding effective--and ineffective--uses of the Internet. When you consider that users of the Web are predominately (or sterotypically) white-collar males, one must question whether using the web to attract women to to Britain's Labour Party effectively utilizes the medium.

But determining effective and ineffective uses of the medium may be nothing more than academic arguments since no one really knows who's on the web. What's certain is that the Web provides information at a low cost to an unlimited audience, because of this fact labor and union members likely will remain staunch Web and Internet users long after many starch-collared businessmen quit shaking their heads over bankrupt Web enterprises.

How and why unions and labor groups use the medium is the focus of the November issue of CMC Magazine. If you would like to contribute an article or essay, please consult the CMC Magazine editorial policies and contact Amelia DeLoach.

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