How Must Unions Change as American Workers Move from the Factory to the 'Information Economy'?
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This cultural and economic solidarity helps us organize the unorganized. Non-Guild writers know who we are and what our members do, and most are eager to join. Current members participate actively in meetings with people who work for non-union companies, and they bring enormous credibility to our organizing efforts. Of course, persuading employers to recognize the union and to pay their writers more is far from easy, and the contingent, job-to-job nature of writing employment makes organizing inherently more difficult than in the old-school mega-factory (where, truth be told, organizing is difficult for a whole different set of reasons). But the fact we function as both a hard-bargaining trade union and a guild of professional creators is of great benefit as we seek to expand the number of writers and creators doing Guild-covered work.
Perhaps the WGAE approach might be a model for representing people who think and create for a living -- which is to say millions of Americans. We engage our members’ work lives, even though their workplaces are small and scattered and their jobs are often of short duration, and we engage their creative, intellectual, and social interests. Thus, we are able to build professional and economic solidarity even in the absence of large worksites which foster a lot of day-in, day-out contact between workers.
Lowell Peterson is the Executive Director of the Writers Guild of America, East