While organising casino workers in Canada, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) set up a page on Facebook. However, Facebook took the page down, claiming that only individuals are allowed to set up a page. The union argued that many companies have their own Facebook pages, but to no avail.
In his newsletter, Labourstart’s Eric Lee comments: “The lesson of the story, as I see it, is that by ‘outsourcing’ our online campaigns to social networks like Facebook and MySpace - which are for-profit, commercial organizations - we are more vulnerable to this kind of thing than when we build websites ourselves, using freely-available tools”.
“That doesn't mean we should avoid using Facebook - after all, LabourStart has 998 members in its Facebook group. But it means that we should aware of the risks and limitations”.
In the end, it turned out the SEIU did not need Facebook to win a victory.
Meanwhile, British confederation TUC has developed an application that allows Facebook users to add a button to their profile, showing which union they are a member of. As yet, the application is only available for British unions.
TUC's Paul Nowak: “Many members are proud of their unions, and like to show their involvement, and this is an easy way for them to do so. A number of unions are reaching out to members using new web technologies, and this will help them to organise online, and raise the profiles of their unions in an environment popular with prospective members”.
UPDATE: New article by Eric Lee on internet hypes and on the dangers of becoming dependent on companies such as Facebook.