Municipal Government

Young Working People Continue to Organize in New Media

October 7, 2015
By Sonia Huq Reprined:

Young working people organizing on the job will be a hot topic at the first ever, White House Summit on Worker Voice. To shed some light on the latest in a series of digital worker wins, I had a one on one with Alice Ollstein of Think Progress. Alice is a political reporter at Think Progress and has been writing for newspapers since her tween-years.

She has always wanted to be a journalist, but today she sits on the other side, sharing her story on why she is a “union yes.” Over chai, we mulled over our millennial ignorance. She confessed that though her own mother is a teacher and in a union, she knew very little until she started thinking about it for her workplace. “For teachers in California, it was a normal part of the job; it was so different for us to choose whether this was the right choice for us.”I admit that I am jealous: There is a sparkle in the eye of the newly converted that isn’t always there for those of us who walk into a union workplace. Because those who choose to change their workplaces need real conviction and bear the risks that come with it.Alice is energized by their win—shared with 30 members whose average age is under 30.

They are now members of the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE). Though the organizing drive felt hard, she acknowledges that working in a progressive workplace afforded them a privilege that most workers don’t have. They were recognized by management at the Center for American Progress, a think tank that often publicizes the positive impacts of labor unions. “A lot of this is about practicing what we preach,” says Alice, as reading about it made her and her co-workers wonder why with all the benefits they weren’t bonding together themselves While former talks fizzled in past years, Alice says that this cohort was inspired by the organizing wins of other online newsrooms. Like in the case of Gawker, the very public statements helped to dispel the myth that workers form a union only when under attack. Alice says that they are mostly happy and want to be able to protect the benefits and flexibility they enjoy right now.

When I asked if there were any surprises, she says she learned that many of the traditional media sources she admired have actually been union workplaces for decades and it’s become an important factor in evaluating news organizations for her.Alice believes that in a union, the writers at Think Progress can advocate to protect the journalistic integrity they currently enjoy so that future funding streams don’t corrupt what they write about.Alice shares, “Journalism is a really competitive industry, but we can all do better by joining together and seeing each other as allies. Because of this we can even feel solidarity with other media workplaces with whom we theoretically compete.” From all of us at the AFL-CIO, we welcome the brothers and sisters at Think Progress in solidarity.

October 7, 2015

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