January 04, 2010
Excerpt from the January, 2010 issue of Labor Notes.
By Paul Abowd
Online social media tools like Twitter are often dismissed as time-wasters for the procrastinator in all of us. But they’re also being harnessed for greater causes. You can use Twitter and text messaging to keep members educated and mobilize them for action.
Twitter is a “micro-blogging” website that allows you to post frequent, short messages, using your computer or cell phone, to be read by people who’ve signed up to get your entries via their own computer or cell phone. Text messages are nearly the same, but are sent to specific people by cell phone. Here are examples from four campaigns.
The Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) formed in 2008 to push the Chicago Teachers Union to oppose school closings and fight for its members. According to Kenzo Shibata, the union had an “immense communications capacity which lay dormant.”
As the city prepared to close yet more schools last winter, CORE deployed a “Twitter army” to monitor major goings-on in the Chicago education world.
At twitter.com/coreteachers, the group began sending live “tweets” from the union’s monthly House of Delegates meetings. The gatherings are sparsely attended by non-delegates, but now everyone can keep tabs on how their dues are spent.
The Twitter brigade also descends on monthly Board of Education meetings, which are held during the work day. Shibata says CORE sends “quick bursts of analysis” to teachers, who read up during their lunch breaks.
When Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke to a pro-privatization group, CORE activists picketed outside and reported via Twitter that they had been threatened with arrest for trying to enter. A flood of teachers responded with solidarity messages, and others asked for directions to the protest.