Recently, The Century Foundation, a group that pursues “non-partisan research and policy analysis” released a report on virtual labor organizing. The report assesses how a mobile application (“app”) or website could provide a platform that would help workers organize for labor campaigns.
According to the report, approximately 96 percent of workers use Internet, e-mail, or mobile devices to connect to work, and approximately 81 percent spend at least one hour on e-mail during the workday. The Foundation further reports that the group of workers that would likely be most interested in labor organizing through social media and digital platforms are younger workers, including millennials, who, according to the report, are more receptive to unionization.
The report lays out aspects of what such an app would need to contain, including providing a common digital forum for employees to communicate about the workplace, coordinate local and regional organizing campaigns, and connect with experienced organizers and labor lawyers.
The National Labor Relations Board “quickie election” rules, in combination with union organizing apps, may increase what has already been a drastic uptick in petitions filed with the NLRB. An organizing app can assist unions in connecting to voters more efficiently and discreetly, making it more difficult for employers to learn of organizing activity in their workplace. Supervisors or management might now find a union flyer in the company parking lot, but soon, those flyers may be replaced with apps that are accessible only through cell phones of the individual employees.
One way to counteract the new wave of technology-driven union organizing is to properly train managers and front-line supervisors to take notice of and address changes in the workplace, including changes in employee personality and morale. This is crucial because an employee who feels as though she is not being heard by her supervisor may soon be able to download an app that provides a way for her to discuss her concerns regarding her workplace, and potentially find other employees who feel similarly.
If and when such an app is developed and implemented properly, it may drastically change the way that unions run organizing campaigns. Employers must be proactive and maintain constant communication between front-line supervisors and rank and file employees to ensure that employees’ concerns are being addressed.