Editorial: Don’t Let Competing Voices Sow DivisionOctober 21, 2021
We must resist voices designed to divide us.
The phrase Information Superhighway was first coined in the late 1970’s by U.S. Vice President Al Gore when the internet was in its infancy and barely anyone even knew of its existence. Half a century later, the internet is just one small part of a whole information ecosystem that includes dozens of competing social media platforms, as well numerous channels for connecting with friends and family around the globe.
In many ways, this explosion of diverse information streams has helped to promote social justice. Activists from all over the United States and throughout the world can readily communicate with each other and amplify the strategies they have used successfully to promote social and political change.
There have always been outlets and publications catering to particular views. From newsletters to newspapers and broadcast media, “freedom of the press” has long lent itself to providing information on many different topics. But a problem for the labor movement arises when these now widely viewed new electronic media channels and their streams of information are deployed by political enemies to divide members. Speaking with one voice at the bargaining table and working together to elect political candidates who will advance members’ interests in government are two key factors necessary for achieving true social justice.
It’s easy to create an echo chamber, where you’re surrounded with like-minded individuals, sharing similar views and ideals. It is important for us as 1199SEIU members to ensure that included in these views and ideals is the unified fight for quality care for our patients and decent wages and conditions for ourselves and our families. And we began this fall with a significant new contract win with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes.
Just as it is now commonplace for an advertisement for a refrigerator to pop up just after sending a message to a friend about needing a new one, our browsing habits, social media groups, and other interactions can be used to divide us based on a number of issues.
This means that members must constantly sift through misinformation and disinformation to find out what is true—always being careful to question the source and their qualifications to speak authoritatively on an issue.
Standing together as one union, regardless of individual views or predispositions, is what enables 1199SEIU members to negotiate strong contracts again and again, no matter what the political climate.
Knowledge of history is also a powerful tool that we 1199ers have on our side. The formidable strength that members recently demonstrated to win a strong contract with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes was not built overnight. (At press time, members were still voting to ratify.) The power of 1199SEIU was put together, brick by brick, over decades of struggle.
It’s important to remember that in 1989, before today’s social media platforms even existed, League contract talks broke down, members were bitterly divided, and there was a strike. In that year too, the President and CEO of New York Presbyterian Hospital was also the Chairman of the League, just like as it was during our successful 2021 negotiations. Then as now, 1199SEIU members were able to set aside the voices designed to divide and distract them from their contract priorities. Standing together as one union, regardless of individual views or predispositions, is what enables 1199SEIU members to negotiate strong contracts again and again, no matter what the political climate.