Taking It To The (Digital) Streets…

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The internet is at the heart of the current Writers’ Guild strike…

blog-wgae-logo.gifOne of the core issues behind this strike is a demand for participation in the revenue that comes from online distribution of media. Writers currently receive no royalties for shows sold or distributed over the internet, and only a token royalty from the sale of DVD’s. In a world going digital, this isn’t a financially viable arrangement for them, and everyone involved seems to be aware of how critical these issues are to their future.

But this isn’t the only role the internet is playing in this strike…

The Writers’ Guild is using the internet as a tool to get their message out. They understand the value of laying out their case in simple terms, and delivering it directly to the public. They’ve put together the following video to do just that:

This reasoned online approach is an effective addition to traditional simple placards carried on a chanting picket line. And while this particular video speaks to the issues that need to be addressed, other videos are being produced that speak to the more emotional side of this dispute. There is even a series of videos (15 to date) entitled “Speechless” that have been produced in support of the writers. They feature various celebrities in off-beat segments that underscore the role writers play in the industry:

While all of these various videos are good vehicles for the Writers Guild from a PR perspective, they do gloss over many of the details and issues that are a part of this strike to make it more accessible to the general public.

And winning over the public is important in any action like this…

But getting the public on their side isn’t their only goal in all of this. These videos probably play a role maintaining internal cohesiveness as well, taking pressure off some of the union’s own fracture points. (They have some writers making paltry sums while others bring in seven figure incomes, and they are divided East-West between the television and movie industries.)

While I have no doubt the issues and motivations behind producing these videos are complex, the almost viral growth of them on the net makes one thing very clear.

The ‘rules of engagement” between labor and management have changed…

The internet is enabling a new form of labor activism to emerge. It’s a natural progression of what we’ve seen happen in the political and social sphere, with groups like moveon.org and thevanguard.org defining positions and organizing support for various issues they are concerned about.

Unions have fallen way behind in this regard. Our economy isn’t about mass production anymore, and the tools and methods used by unions in the past have limited value in the world they find themselves in today. Just like the industries they represent, they’ll need to learn and adapt – or they will perish.

It appears the Writers Guild is adapting…

Media is at its most powerful when it puts a human face to abstract issues and situations. And technology is the most powerful tool available for delivering that media at a personal level. That’s the combination the Writers Guild has embraced in this strike.

And they are just scratching the surface of what’s possible…

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