The coronavirus continues to spread—and the impact is already being felt in the political sphere.
Because COVID-19 has an estimated death rate of 2–5%, officials are strongly encouraging social isolation to slow the spread of the disease. The Biden and Sanders presidential campaigns have cancelled rallies and seven Republican lawmakers have self-quarantined after being exposed to coronavirus at the CPAC conference.
But even during a pandemic, the work of labor organizing must go on. That’s why digital tools are more important than ever as a way to engage your members and supporters when you can’t meet with them in person. Here are some tips and tools for you to consider:
1. Position Your Organization As a Trusted Source of Information
Labor unions are uniquely positioned to inform members and counteract misinformation and rumors about the coronavirus crisis—which also presents an opportunity for you to strengthen the ties between your members and the organization.
Schedule regular digital updates about the crisis with your members (using the tools described below) and help connect them to community resources such as healthcare, food delivery, etc. You won’t have all the answers but you can commit to helping members get the information they need to stay safe.
2. Regularly Update Your Social Media Pages and Respond to Comments and Questions
Your members will be hungry for information during this crisis. Make sure you post regular coronavirus updates on your Facebook page and other social media platforms and quickly respond to all questions from your members. Remember: unanswered questions will destroy your credibility with members while answering questions quickly will create trust in the union.
3. Meet with Members in Digital Spaces
Try one of these video communication tools so you get the benefits of face-to-face communication when you can’t meet in person:
✥ Facebook Messenger Group Video Chat: Allows up to six people at a time to appear on camera but up to 50 people can join the conversation.
✥ Facebook Live: Host a live broadcast on your Facebook page to update members about COVID-19.
✥ Google Hangouts: Hold a video call with up to 25 participants.
✥ WhatsApp Video Call: Allows up to four participants to video call.
✥ Zoom: The free option enables you to host group meetings with up to 100 participants for 40 minutes.
✥ Cisco WebEx: New customers now have the option to sign up for a free 90-day license.
4. Stay in Touch with Members Through SMS and Peer-To-Peer Texting
If your organizers aren’t able to visit worksites they can still communicate with members using SMS and peer-to-peer texting. A simple message saying, “I’m not able to travel to your site this week but wanted to check in with you. How are things going on the job?” will do a lot to make members feel connected to the union.
Mass SMS is also the best way to send out urgent or emergency information and will be an invaluable tool to connect your members to community resources as the COVID-19 crisis evolves.
Peer-to-peer messaging through platforms like Hustle is a great way to drive RSVPs for your digital meetings/events and to remind members to tune in when your digital events go live.
5. Plan Now for Digital GOTV
It’s impossible to know at this point how the coronavirus crisis will affect the November 2020 elections. But you should start planning now to use digital tools in the event there are severe restrictions on community contact and canvassing. How will you drive voter turnout when you can’t knock on doors? Don’t wait to figure it out.
6. Last (But Definitely Not Least): Prioritize the Health of your Organizers and Members
In the heat of a campaign it’s typical for organizing managers and their teams to drive themselves to work whether they are tired, hungry or ill. But coronavirus is both highly contagious and deadly for vulnerable people. Traveling door-to-door is a great way to amplify a pandemic. Take a step back and weigh the impact of your organizing on the health of your staff, your members and your entire community. Remember, you do have tools available to help you organize while also dramatically reducing your risk of illness.