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The Use of Technology in Union Organizing

Brad James, National Organizing Department Head, United Steelworkers

Published April 19, 2018 by Technologies of Justice.

During the Technologies of Justice Conference session Technology and Work: Justice Boom or Fissuring Bane?, Brad James of United Steelworkers discussed the use of technology in union organizing. The conference took place from January 26 to 27, 2018 at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.



James spoke about using technological tools to help fight for economic justice through organizing goals. He further discussed the use of tools in union organization, organizing campaigns and starting unions, as well as using tech to help create unions and union culture.

He highlighted the fact that unions grow faster in Canada than they do in the U.S., making Canada a unique place for trying new ideas in union organization. There are many sectors interested in union organizing technologies and gaining assistance from the National Organizing Department, including, but not limited to, mining, telecom, hotels, logistics, manufacturing, taxi drivers, health care workers and security guards.

He also brought up the idea of using technology to revolutionize the organization of campaigns by combining social media, hardware tech and traditional solutions. He discussed the current and future uses of technology for data analysis and data management. In terms of unions and union organization, contact and personnel lists are one of the most important starting blocks; everything from workplace-based email addresses to online newsletters and pamphlets can help to improve the system of gathering and keeping up with these lists. He mentioned new technologies such as electronic membership cards, electronic votes for starting unions, electronic signing as well as websites, portals and other tools that can help increase the speed of campaigns.

He also discussed the problems social media and electronics can cause in union organization, such as early steps in unionization being brought to light sooner, and the creation of forums by members not in charge of the organization of the union, which can create conversation and discourse that can lack moderation.