Sunday, December 14, 2008

Union Bloggers Starter Kit

A while ago I mentioned the TIGMOO British union blog aggregator. Canadian labour blogs cover a lot of ground and deserve an aggregator like TIGMOO. Examples are so numerous and the quality of the postings so impressive I thought seriously about not providing any examples, just because I didn’t want to leave anything or anyone out.

But, at the risk of p*&&ing some of you off, here are few URLs that will take you to interesting examples of what unions and workers are doing with this mostly free online tool. I’ve used as examples blogs I’ve watched develop almost from when they were created, so apologies for the CUPE/LabourStart focus..

Larry Hubich is a LabourStart correspondent. In his spare time he’s the President of the SFL and a blogger whose postings get a lot of attention from the mainstream media in Saskatchewan, particularly as the SFL led the fight to turn back the Saskatchewan Party’s legislative agenda against workers:

A Vancouver CUPE local (“the brave and beautiful Vancouver Public Library workers “) involved in long and eventually successful struggle used a blog to keep members updated on bargaining and strike issues/procedures and such:

Note the resources listing along the right side of the page. Videos, photos on Flickr, documents, links to other local blogs (a convention blog among them) and shortcuts to blog entries by subject are all listed.

CUPE 1356 represents service and security workers at York University in Toronto. Content on the local’s blog is pretty eclectic. Everything from news of other university sector settlements through notices from the employer, to health news and tips for the local’s older members.

And, once again, check out the shortcuts listed on the right side of the page. Members with internet access will find answers to a lot of the ‘usual’ questions here. And, better yet, they can do things like support other workers.

Note too that the CUPE 1356 blog lets a number of ‘authors’ add content. So it’s updated more frequently and reflects a broader range of interests.

The apparent sophistication of these blogs can be discouraging: can anyone really get on the web and start blogging about bargaining? About health and safety issues? About your cousin’s wedding? Can any of us have a sharp-looking a blog as these? As resource-rich?


With minimal computer skills you can go to the site below and have a reasonable blog up and running in 20 minutes. Or your money back (no risk in that on my part, the service is free).

You even get help with formatting and designing your blog. You’ll have a choice of designs, you pick the one you like, including colours.

Want to change the design after you’ve gone to all the trouble of adding content? No problem. A few clicks and it’s done.

In fact it’s so simple that the only real problem you’ll likely run into is a shortage of content. If you’ve created a union blog and told people it’s there and launched it with a bit of a splash, not updating it regularly afterwards is gonna cost you most of your readers.

Some content you are just going to have to generate your self. But if you’re thinking about a blog, then you likely have some in mind, almost ready to go. In fact it’s likely material you would be putting out anyway in the form of updates, newsletters and the text of media releases and such.

But do be forewarned on one point: at the audience’s end there will be an appetite for regular updates and you’ll have to think hard and mebbe consult even harder to determine what frequency that is, exactly. Weekly? Quite possibly. Daily: probably not, but when things are poppin’, for sure. Monthly? At least, and that’s likely too infrequent.

You can ‘borrow’ content from other sources. Photos on Flickr can be made to automatically appear on your blog (see for info). You can link to You Tube videos. You can add newswires like LabourStart’s or the ones many national unions now produce.

You can link to other sites and to other blogs. Add a few bits of text about why you think your audience would want to read something located elsewhere and you’ve just added new content to your site.

One small cautionary note: remember there are legal implications to your content. Not just the questions of libel and all that (don’t say anything on your blog you wouldn’t say in a newsletter and you’re fine), but also those of copyright. If you’re using someone else’s work either just link to it or ask permission.

Better yet, look for material that isn’t copyrighted but instead is available under a Creative Commons licence. Credit the creator and you can pretty much use CC licensed material anywhere, so long as you’re not making a profit from it.

For more info on the Creative Commons concept see the, you guessed it, CC blog:

The last warning about blogging is the best bit. It’s addictive. So if you’ve budgeted an hour a week for updating your local’s or caucus’ blog, instead set aside about five. You’ll use them. All.

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