Labor Communicators of the World, Unite!

One of the greatest obstacles we confront while communicating our messages is that we are indeed working-class blokes. That means most of us don’t have Ivy League degrees, or the technical savvy, or a natural-born genius for developing fancy communication strategies. Union leaders fortunate enough to have decent budgets for hiring talented, “marketing” people to handle communications programs face a bunch of vendors who provide ample opportunity for flushing dues money down the toilet.

Like other problems we face collectively, the key ingredient to solving our problem is SOLIDARITY. We, as labor folks (workers, communicators, leaders), must actively and aggressively pool our talents and knowledge, and then share it if we hope to make good use of modern communication tools. The good news here is that there is already an organization for facilitating this type of collective sharing: It’s the International Labor Communications Association. The ILCA.

The ILCA was established in 1955. Then, it was known as the International Labor Press Association--and it functioned primarily as a way for unions to communicate with each other in order to disseminate important news stories. But now--with the Internet in full bloom--there is an even greater need for the ILCA to support professional and amateur labor communicators who need to learn and master the the rhetorical and technological skills that can get their labor union’s messages heard.

Today, the ILCA is at a crossroads. Its last two staff members were laid off recently, and now, it’s an all-volunteer organization. How ironic and tragic that at a time when the need for the ILCA has never been more urgent, its organizational capacity has never been weaker.

So, what concrete steps can we take to reverse and reinvigorate the ILCA? I have a few ideas:

  • Spread the word on the Internet, making a conscious effort to use Twitter and Facebook to promote the ILCA and its programs. We need to get the ILCA (back) into people’s radar.
  • Hold communication training sessions and roundtable discussions at your labor councils and labor unions, and advertise/announce them as ILCA events. Then, use these trainings as a foundation for starting your own ILCA chapter that encourages local unions in your area to join and pay dues to the ILCA.
  • Develop an efficient system for collecting individual membership dues. 1000 members paying $10 a month would provide $120,000 per year in revenues. If we fall short and find only 100 people, that’s still $12,000 per year. Pretty good. The Internet makes such a campaign eminently do-able. Everyone actively could--and should--promote the ILCA.
  • Get out there and TALK about the ILCA at your council and state fed meetings. Be a salesperson for the organization, and tell union members why it’s so important to either join the ILCA or start their own chapter. Sell the ILCA!

As for me, I’m committing myself to doing whatever I can to build up the ILCA. Again: The ILCA is critical to labor’s survival. Our survival. I hope you’ll join me.