Blogger Unions

AP Business Writer Ashley Heher reports on one of the stranger ideas floated at the YearlyKos convention:

In a move that might make some people scratch their heads, a loosely formed coalition of left-leaning bloggers are trying to band together to form a labor union they hope will help them receive health insurance, conduct collective bargaining or even set professional standards.

The conservative bloggers reacting so far are indeed scratching their heads — or laughing themselves silly.

Q and O‘s Jon Henke wonders, “Collectively bargain with and receive health insurance from who? Who would they go on strike against? To whom does the blogger ‘shop steward’ talk? What constitutes ‘management’ for an independent blogger?

Wizbang‘s Paul piles on: “Collective bargaining? What are they going to do… go on strike? Are they really so self-absorbed they think if they quit blogging the world will care? Color me incredulous.”

Exactly right. As I’ve argued in a few posts in response to related ideas, nobody owes bloggers a living. If you can’t sell ads or otherwise get people to pay you for blogging, then you’re almost by definition not providing much value that would be missed.

So long as bloggers remain mostly independent operators, I can’t conceive how collective bargaining and demands for higher wages might work. On the other hand, organization could conceivably provide many of the aims listed above. The model, though, isn’t the labor union but rather the professional association.

For example, the Media Bloggers Association (of which I’m a board member) have arranged for legal protection for its members and articulated some professional standards as a means of acquiring credentialing to cover limited access events like the Scooter Libby Trial and presidential debates. We’re working, too, to figure out a way to get group rates on insurance (right now we’re focusing on liability insurance to protect against libel and copyright violation suits but health insurance isn’t out of the realm of possibility).

UPDATE: Via Triumph (again) I see that Susie Madrak has a much more benign explanation for what they are trying to accomplish here:

Just got off the phone with another reporter. I told her no, I wasn’t specifically trying to get bloggers to join a union but rather, I was looking at any and all vehicles through which bloggers could affiliate and thus get affordable health insurance.

Heher’s report might be just a wee bit in the “making a mountain out of a molehill” variety. If so, it wouldn’t be the first time in the history of journalism.
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FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Economics and Business
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Christopher says:

    Yea, you guys are a bunch of airheads alright.

  2. M. Murcek says:

    They (the bloggers’ union advocates) aren’t looking for a good rate on insurance, they are looking for someone to provide it to them at no cost. Being leftists, it’s reasonable to assume that they have identified that someone as the taxpayer…

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    What are they going to do… go on strike?

    One can only hope.

  4. M. Murcek says:

    Also, the potential union members are looking forward to calling non-union bloggers scabs…

  5. Triumph says:

    We’re working, too, to figure out a way to get group rates on insurance (right now we’re focusing on liability insurance to protect against libel and copyright violation suits but health insurance isn’t out of the realm of possibility).

    I think that is what they were talking about at the Kos convention. The AP reporter seemed to not quite get the point.

    Suzie Madrak explains it at her site: http://susiemadrak.com/2007/08/06/12/31/bloggity-blog/

    This is one of those cases of a lazy reporter who doesn’t understand the blogosphere trying to make a news story out of nothing.

    Because they are leftists, they use the “union” terminology, but the goals are identical to what you describe, James, about the Media Bloggers Association.

    Given that many bloggers are self-employed, it is useful to form organizations that can help them network and get decent rates on insurance, etc…

  6. Triumph says:

    UPDATE: Via Triumph (again)

    Screw a bloggers union–I am starting the Blog Commenters Local 1!

    Its time to battle the oppression we endure from the evil bloggers!

    Commenters Unite!

  7. Tano says:

    I think this story illustrates one of the more annoying aspects of so many blogs and their “reporting”.

    We get news of something that doesnt seem to make much sense. So what happens? Is there any effort made to actually figure out what this is all about before passing on the story? Or does the initial head-scratch become the story itself – opening the way for all the knees to jerk with snarky commentary on a subject that the commenter knows nothing about.

    The latter of course.

  8. rodney dill says:

    Well actually Steve Verdon, Alex Knapp, Chris Lawrence, Dodd Harris, Robert Prather, Stephen Bainbridge, John Burgess, Richard Gardner, Kate McMillan, Greg Tinti, meself and a few others could possibly form a union.

    😉

  9. James Joyner says:

    Well actually Steve Verdon, Alex Knapp, Chris Lawrence, Dodd Harris, Robert Prather, Stephen Bainbridge, John Burgess, Richard Gardner, Kate McMillan, Greg Tinti, meself and a few others could possibly form a union.

    True! There’d be some serious corporate downsizing were that to occur, however, owing to the paperwork problems having you go from “independent contractors” to “employees” would cause OTB Media.

  10. James Joyner says:

    I think this story illustrates one of the more annoying aspects of so many blogs and their “reporting”.

    Fair to an extent, although most of us don’t claim to be reporters. This is, after all, based on a story by the vaunted Associated Press, so it presuming that it was basically accurate is a reasonable starting point.

    Unlike most of the MSM, once information comes to light that the basis of our commentary is faulty, most of us will at least quickly and prominently note and cite the contrary evidence, rather than launching a long “investigation” with results waiting until long after the damage is done.

  11. jpe says:

    I’m amused anyone thought that this wasn’t anything but a guild of sorts. Presumably, they’d band together to pool risk for insurance and negotiate group advertising rates. Makes sense to me.