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Summary:

As usual, the annual Yearly Kos convention of liberal bloggers spawned a few new ideas, including this one: a labor union for bloggers. The idea immediately drew a great deal of online discussion, ranging from reasoned consideration to howls of derision. With many web workers running […]

As usual, the annual Yearly Kos convention of liberal bloggers spawned a few new ideas, including this one: a labor union for bloggers. The idea immediately drew a great deal of online discussion, ranging from reasoned consideration to howls of derision. With many web workers running their own blogs, for business or personal reasons, we’ve certainly got a stake in this idea.

Part of the reason for the wide spectrum of strong reactions is the variety of meanings wrapped up in the word “union.” Would this hypothetical entity exist for collective bargaining (with who?), negotiating group rates on insurance, creating a blogger code of ethics (an idea that’s been tried before, with a notable lack of success), or just to make bloggers feel good about being part of the labor movement? What services could it provide for bloggers that other groups such as the Freelancers Union or the National Writers Union don’t already offer?

So, let’s throw the discussion open to you, the possibly-oppressed web workers of the world.  Are you interested in a bloggers union? Have you already joined one of the other unions open to web workers? Have you found the benefits worthwhile? Or does the whole idea just strike you as silly?

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  1. I think viewing it as a “union” is misguided at best. Bloggers are if anything media entrepreneurs (regardless of what airmchair revolutionaries might want to admit) rather than a “labour force”.
    Bloggers, if they even make money work for themselves, they do it on their own accord, for their own amusement of their own free will. I don’t quite see who they would “bargain” with?

    Forming an interest group in terms of a “cooperative” however might be viable, in terms of negotiating better deals for health insurance, advertising etc for these blogging entrepreneurs.

    But calling it a union? Please don’t, it’s just a cheap ploy by people who don’t want to face reality and acknowledge they’re actually participating as entrepreneurs in a capitalist economy.

  2. Oh no! Will all the Bloggers go on strike if their demands aren’t met? Can you imagine what that would be like….um, actually it wouldn’t be that bad.

  3. I personally would never join a union of any sort. I believe that my pay should be as closely tied to productivity as possible. When you’re in a union, your pay is determined by individuals other than yourself, and your level of productivity rarely changes that fact.

    However, I do agree with Willie when he notes that the “bloggers union” isn’t intended to be a union at all. Bloggers don’t have issues with poor working conditions, unfair business practices, or disproportionate or abusive management like factory or agriculture workers do. This “bloggers union” is about political clout and credibility in the publishing world. If bloggers want to pay dues to a union and receive absolutely no protections for those payments, they have the right to waste their money however they want.

  4. Christopher Estep Wednesday, August 8, 2007

    My first reaction to the whole “blogger union” notion is that it’s laughable and stupid. I’m a conservative and a republican. I’ve been on both sides of a union (member and management) and by and large, I’m vociferously anti-union.

    However…

    Upon further consideration, I can actually see a benefit to a blogger union, or association, if you will as long as it’s done openly and equitably across the board. What benefits? Think about the main purpose of unions. It isn’t “make more money” or “get better conditions”. Think more basic than that even. The main purpose of unions is to allow people to negotiate as a collective unit where it’s difficult and/or impossible to negotiate as an individual. And what can be negotiated? Treatment as media. Access. A standard way of determining what bloggers may or may not be eligible for media passes, for example. My political blog most likely wouldn’t be eligible unless they were openly given. I don’t have the readership. But if you establish uniform criteria for determining eligibility, then yeah.

    There are other questions, like “how would this benefit the little guy without placing a burden on someone else?” and such. But I actually think there’s some potential there.

    So to answer the question, yeah I might. As long as what’s required of me isn’t burdensome, my dues doesn’t go for anything other than free press lobbying, and similar things, Yeah I might.

  5. There are really two questions here – 1) would I join a union, and 2) would I join a blogger’s union.

    And the answer is – no and no. If blogging were somehow creatively “closed shop” and a union card were a prerequisite, I’d do something else.

    More importantly, though, the idea of a blogger’s union doesn’t make sense. I disagree, I do believe the purpose of unionization is collective bargaining for improved working conditions, benefits, compensation and fair treatment. None of those apply to a voluntary personal activity with no entry bar and no direct compensation. I’ve read the arguments about why the concept does apply, and feel it’s too big a stretch.

  6. As a blogger, you don’t need a union. Your work should speak for itself. If you start paying your hard earned cash to someone, it should be for a good reason, not to help prop up bloggers that can’t cut it.

    If you’re blogging for someone that pays you, and you think you should get more money, set up something on blogger.com and go for it. It’s not hard. If you’re good, your audience will find you.

    The people that want this are in it for money for political causes, THEIR political causes, not yours. Remember that.

  7. I will never work for a union again.

    I spent almost 10 years working in a union position, and it drove me nuts. My job changed considerably over the 10 year period (in terms of responsibility), yet I never received more than my yearly pay increment.

    The management uses the union to their advantage in these circumstances. “We can’t negotiate a pay raise with you because your pay is collectively negotiated”. Nothing is more frustrating.

  8. The idea of a full-on union is flat-out antithetical to the spirit of the Web’s design, and impossible to achieve.

    A professional association with a member code of conduct, certification programs, dispute resolution facilities, and the ability to negotiate on behalf of its members (as a class) for discounts on health insurance and professional services is another story.

    The problem to date has been undercapitalization on one hand, or corruption on the other. In tandem with the challenge of accrediting certifications, the whole concept would face a lot of obstacles to implementation.

    In the end, it would serve as a signalling mechanism quickly identifying those whose services deliver value in spite of (if not actually because of) high bill rates.

    Meanwhile, the whole idea is horribly offensive to the Heinlein-inspired libertarians who make up a measurable proportion of the folks who make their bread behind a keyboard, mouse, and display.

    Done right, it would still leave plenty of room for the n00bs (and the penny-paring customers who insist on the privilege of hiring them).

  9. Meanwhile, the whole idea is horribly offensive to the Heinlein-inspired libertarians who make up a measurable proportion of the folks who make their bread behind a keyboard, mouse, and display.

    I find it interesting that blogging has been around for effectively 10 years. It was exclusively tech-types until 2004 or so and is now including more and more reporters, writers, etc. It’s a complete shift… but more importantly, it’s bringing people to blogging who are politically and professionally diametrically opposed to the ideas of pay for merit instead of “seniority” and other arbitrary measures.

    Done right, it would still leave plenty of room for the n00bs (and the penny-paring customers who insist on the privilege of hiring them).

    No, it won’t. Look at any auto company. When there are layoff, who goes first? My wife was a professional knitting blogger for a short period and paid relatively well for it. If the system was “unionized” positions like that couldn’t just “pop up”… they would go to whoever was next in line.

    Group insurance plans, etc are available numerous places… the various professional societies, local chambers of commerce, a few college alumni groups, and I’ve even seen them at churches. Why spend the time or effort to duplicate that?

  10. Union !== professional association.

    A union negotiates for wages and preserves the right to strike (in theory if not in practice).

    A professional association ensures that practitioners maintain a reasonably high level of competence and conduct, with the intent of preserving the credibility of its members (and by extension, their profession).

    Also, my earlier comments were in reference to developers and designers, not bloggers.

    My slam on libertarians is down to the fact that a lot of them would just as soon prefer the market remain in its presently b0rked and Wild-West-ish state, even though in my (well-informed) opinion, the status quo makes it harder for Web workers to be taken seriously as professionals. (The next time I get compared to someone’s goddamn nephew, I swear… ohnevermind.)

    I’m trying to come up with something intelligent and well-informed about how these realities apply specifically to bloggers, but in point of fact I can’t.

    So I won’t.

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