Mich. Local Uses YouTube to Organize
April 8, 2014
One of the best organizing tools the IBEW has is the stories from union members who used to work nonunion. But that isn’t easy to put on a leaflet, said Muskegon, Mich., Local 275 Membership Development Coordinator Walter Christophersen.
So Business Manager Sean Egan decided to invest in a decent camcorder and get the local’s new members to say on camera why they decided to join the IBEW – in their own words.
“Instead of trying to cram everything into a flyer, we said why not put it on video,” Christophersen said.
“I get the feeling that somebody out there has my back,” new Local 275 member Antonio Kilgo said in the one of the videos uploaded to YouTube. “The guys I work with, everyone is at the same level.”
YouTube is the latest tool the local is using to boost its organizing efforts.
Six months ago, Egan posted his first video, a six-piece presentation on forming a union and workplace rights.
“You can handbill people to death,” Christophersen said. “These video are more powerful, more personal.”
Circuit Electric is one of Western Michigan’s biggest nonunion contractors. Stagnant wages, low tool allowances and weak benefits has raised interest among employees in joining Local 275.
Egan has used YouTube to communicate to workers about resisting anti-union pressure and explaining in more detail what goes on during an organizing drive, emailing a link to Local 275’s videos to all employees.
Videos haven’t replaced other organizing tools, but Christophersen says they make sure that a link to Local 275’s URL or a QR code is on every piece of literature they hand out. They also made sure it was on all 1,500 invitations to a recent IBEW industry night, a job fair that pairs nonunion electricians with signatory contractors.
“They have the link so they can watch it in the comfort of their own home,” he said.
The videos have not only helped connect Local 275 with nonunion electricians in their area – they’re garnering interest around the county, including a nonunion truck driver in Kentucky who watched the “How to Form a Union” video.
“He was Googling ‘join a union’ and he saw our video,” said Christophersen. “He ended up calling us, so I put him touch with the Teamsters.”
Click here to see Local 275’s YouTube channel.