ILCA President Proposes Changes in Letter to AFL-CIO

Posted by Larry - December 23, 2004 (entry 264)

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney has requested proposals for the future of labor. Below is a response from Martin Fishgold, President of the International Labor Communications Association.

Dear President Sweeney,

In response to your call for proposals concerning the future focus of the AFL-CIO, I would like to submit for your consideration the following ideas.

1 - Together with the international unions and the ILCA, make a serious investment in national independent labor media during the next year. Stop using workers' money to buy advertising in corporate media, which systematically marginalizes and attacks workers. Instead, invest in the creation of national labor media in the form of at least one cable television station, at least one radio network, and at least one national weekly publication. Such ventures can be highly profitable, and the use of union pension funds to invest in them, rather than in our corporate opponents, should be considered. But there are sufficient funds in the current AFL-CIO budget and the budgets of internationals to take this step without using pension money.

Each media outlet created should be an independent organization committed in its constitution to the promotion of growth in the labor movement, and to accepting no funding or advertising from companies not approved by the AFL-CIO and the Union Label and Service Trades Department. But each must be independent and subject to no editorial control by any union or labor federation, control that could exclude debate and new ideas.

2-Working with the ILCA, the National Labor College, and the international unions, invest in grass-roots communications training for the labor movement, training in the production of our own media as well as in relations with the corporate media. Train staff and rank-and-file to train other rank and file in communications skills and media activism. Focus the training on developing our members as our greatest communications resource, on the use of internal communications to engage and activate members, and on the use of external communications to develop allies and advance organizing campaigns. Train union members not just to Email congress, but to produce publications and talk shows and websites, to phone corporate talk shows, to write letters to the editor and op-eds, to do interviews, to stage events, and to monitor and hold accountable the corporate media.

3-Work with the ILCA and labor media outlets -- both union-based and independent -- to develop ties with international labor media. We cannot compete with global corporations if we cannot communicate with our brothers and sisters abroad. Create information exchanges, translation services, and reporting with a global perspective.

4 - Work with the ILCA to develop a stronger network of independent labor media and other alternative, ethnic, religious, and community media. The media outlets reporting what the "mainstream" does not report are legion, but they are small and scattered. Building alliances with these media outlets will help build alliances with their constituencies, thus helping to build the strength we need to win organizing and political campaigns.

5 - Democratize "America at Work." Include critical letters to the editor, multiple points of view, interviews of members with dissenting opinions, and stories and analyses of failures as well as successes. Make it a magazine about workers, not officers. Give workers the ability to make their voices heard in it. Give its editor independence and credibility. Expand the reporting to cover more issues at greater length. Shrink the photos and font sizes. Create open online forums for further discussion of each article. Make this a model for other union publications. Survey members on their reactions to changes in the magazine.

6 - Make media reform one of the AFL-CIO's top five legislative priorities. Make the FCC, Congress, and media conglomerates the targets of aggressive campaigns including massive public demonstrations, sit-ins, and other forms of non-violent civil disobedience. Make "the corporate media" a more common epithet than "the liberal media."

7 - Create a real Working Group that brings together on a regular basis representatives from international union communications departments, the AFL-CIO Public Affairs department, the ILCA, and locals throughout the country who will plan media strategies to accompany giant campaigns like opposing off-shoring, opposing the War in Iraq, organizing Wal-Mart, supporting candidates in an election, and more.

While the above suggestions do not attempt to address every dilemma facing labor, they do constitute, I believe, a key piece of the puzzle, one whose neglect has made everything else far more difficult.

In Solidarity,
Martin Fishgold, ILCA President

The International Labor Communications Association, founded in 1955, is the professional organization of labor communicators in North America. ILCA membership is open to national, regional, and local union publications and to media productions affiliated with the AFL-CIO and the CLC, as well as to associate members not affiliated with those bodies. The ILCA^

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed on this website are those of the individual members of Chicago Media Action who authored them, and not necessarily those of the entire membership of Chicago Media Action, nor of Chicago Media Action as an organization.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.