(The Return of) Ignatz, by Sam Heldman

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Nathan Newman makes (as he usually does) a good point, re labor-blogging today: in paraphrase, 'less blogging about blogging about labor, more blogging about labor disputes.'

I have been feeling badly about not contributing lately to Nathan's Labor Blog, and now that I think about it, the reason I haven't been contributing so much is related to what Nathan is saying. Blogging about the big issues of labor is not a very point-ful exercise. Even blogging about the National Labor Relations Board's recent run of lousy pro-management decisions -- as Nathan does well, in the linked post -- is of limited utility. Sure, it makes me (and sympathetic readers) even more desirous of a Board appointed by a Democratic President, but you know how that goes. I suppose it would be possible to inspire an email-campaign of thousands of people writing to the Board to say, "I can't believe you guys overruled Epilepsy Foundation! What an outrage!" But I don't think that would do any good. Some blogging for a union-member or union-officer audience could, of course, be useful for spreading positive information. But that's not a big part of the blogosphere.

So my motto goes even farther than Nathan's today. It's "less blogging about blogging about labor, less blogging about labor, more doing about labor." Even if I regaled you with stories about the most recent unfair labor practices by X Corp. in Y City, Alabama, what good would it do you or me? Practically none, unless you lived in Y City or were a consumer of goods or services of X Corp. And the chances of that, in any particular fight, are pretty slim. (Do you have a relative at a nursing home in South Alabama run by the Cogburn company? Didn't think so.) It would be different as to labor disputes involving corporations with a major national presence. If there is a labor dispute involving UPS, or Frito-Lay, or something, then maybe a national letter-writing campaign inspired by the blogosphere might be relevant. But in a dispute that big and prominent and nationwide, I think it fair to assume that the blogosphere won't on its own initiative become the hero of the day -- a relevant bit player, maybe, but not a main force in the labor dispute.

So if not to blog about labor or read blogs about labor, what can a human being possibly do????? Here are some off-the-top-of-my-head possibilities, in ascending order of time commitment. (1) If you see a picket line, walk up to the people and smile and see if anybody needs a cup of coffee or something (or if you are in your car, toot your horn and wave). I am serious. This human interaction is a good thing, and can impact management's perception of how much they can get away with. (2) Call up the nearest AFL-CIO office and ask them if there are any strikes or campaigns underway in which an interested member of the public could be of any assistance, by writing a letter of something. They may act befuddled by the question, but try it. (3) If you're bored, go by the nearest office of the National Labor Relations Board, talk nicely to the people there, and find out when they're going to have a trial on some charge that a company has fired workers for attempting to organize a union or something like that. Then attend some or all of the trial, and when the company's people try to figure out who you are, act all cryptic but tell them that you're monitoring the trial for some concerned local citizens. Will this matter? Maybe not, but you can have fun and might learn something.

[Edit: and here is another thing you can do. Go to the AFL-CIO's site and see what employers they are suggesting that you should patronize and which ones they suggest that you boycott. Among the boycotts are R.J. Reynolds and other things that you might otherwise patronize. Check it out. If you follow those recommendations and let the companies know that you are doing so, that's better than blogging.]

posted by sam 8:28 AM 2 comments


Another subject is, what then is the best use of a blog? To illustrate, the other day it occurred to me that there may not be a single blog about Stalin, and I had it in mind to start the world's first Stalin Blog. But then I decided to take out the trash instead. Did I do the right thing?

By Blogger Chris, at 3:08 AM  

No. Instead, you should have started StalinBlogWatch Blog, blogging on a day-to-day basis about the continuing absence of blogs devoted to Stalin.

By Blogger sam, at 7:26 AM  

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