Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Blogger Union?

As this Wired article reports, a loose coalition of bloggers are attempting to form a union. Their thinking is that by banding together they can have more bargaining power in negotiating terms for health insurance, collective bargaining, and other goals of traditional labor movements. However, that seems to betray the point - blogging in cyberspace is anything but traditional, and any such notions of organizing labor must adjust dramatically to have any hope for success.

Bloggers are notorious for being fiercely independent, and the very notion of an organized union seems to contradict why many people started blogging in the first place. Furthermore, a union of "members" is, by definition, a relationship of exclusivity - either you're "one of us" or you're not. But there are no barriers to entry in the blogosphere since anybody with internet access can create one. There are no special sets of skills or really any defining common characteristics amongst the blogging community. Such a union, therefore, would really be between a completely random collection of individuals.

So what? Proponents of the unionization are quick to point out that many freelancers' labor unions that have existed for decades have also been exactly that. This might seem counter-intuitive to most people's concepts of what defines a labor union - after all, what's to stop the creation of other "unions" for MySpace users, Facebook users, AOL subscribers, or any other random association of individuals with practically nothing in common for the purpose of collective bargaining? Then again, come to think of it, that sounds a lot like democracy.

A more sensible (and palatable) approach might be to first increase the legitimacy of certain subsets of the blogging community. In other words, a union of all bloggers is too wishy-washy, but establishing a union for professional bloggers, another for political bloggers, another for for-hire bloggers, etc., could more reasonably address the issues of definition and exclusivity. Each association could establish standards and codes of conduct which would, as a consequence, define its membership and set minimum (and voluntary) rules for behavior that would act as a prerequisite for membership into a true union of like-minded individuals.
  

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