By Elisabeth Winkler
I am a union person.
I have belonged to the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) for as long as I’ve been a freelance journalist.
The NUJ has got me out of a few scrapes over the past 20 years. Helped me claw back fee due from a national newspaper. Supported me when a publication dissed my rep.
I do not begrudge my union dues because they insure me for future grievances and in the meantime help some other poor bugger.
I know my history – without unions, workers would still be working a 12-hour day. (As many still do).
On the 22 and 23 October 2010, my local branch, the Bristol NUJ, asked: What’s the blogging story?
Research conducted for the union shows there are 20,000 workers in digital new media in the Bristol area.
Note: the term blogger here includes those creating online content.
As a union gal already paying union fees for my printed work, I would LOVE my online work to be covered too.
From a union’s point-of-view, thousands of unregulated online workers must be a dream. Both the NUJ’s fortune and its collective bargaining power would swell magnificently.
Mind you, some journalists are nervous of bloggers – many of whom work for nothing. So bloggers could be seen as undermining the profession.
Leaving that underlying tension aside, I wondered as a blogger whether union membership – being accredited by a professional body – might give visitors more confidence in a site.
Visitors could clearly see I subscribe to the NUJ Code of Conduct (although there is nothing stopping any writer adhering to it, I found out).
However – said the devil’s advocate in my mind – is not the point of today’s web that a blog is authenticated by its comments and the transparency of the blogger?
And HOW would the NUJ assess who is a digital worker, especially if he/she is an unpaid blogger?
(There is a precedent for a blogger becoming an NUJ member.)
Bloggers are a notoriously independent breed. Does belonging to a union undermine that spirit?
In response, Sarah Ditum pointed out the days of “happy anarchy on the web” may be numbered – digital workers would be wise to have union support, including access to legal training.
As you can see, this fascinating topic raises a host of questions.
Here are a few more.
Bloggers, can you think of situations where you might have welcomed union support? Even to combat the isolation of being freelance?
Or is a union anathema to bloggers?
Do bloggers need a union?
What do you think?
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