From Twitter to Network TV: How “Amaya’s Awesome List” of union jobs earned a spot on Fox News


A nice example of how social media can leverage attention on broadcast TV, with its much larger audience:

The story starts yesterday in Texas, where Dell, Inc. held its annual meeting. CEO Michael Dell was set to be crowned for another term as chairman of the company he founded – although he took home over $450 million in 2008 and 2009, even as shareholders saw the value of their holdings drop by 66%.

The AFL-CIO, which takes a dim view of outsized executive compensation, urged company shareholders not to re-elect Dell to the board of his own company. This earned AFL-CIO Deputy Director of Investments Brandon Reese an interview slot on Varney and Company, the Fox Network’s morning business show.

Reese asserted that companies like Dell and Apple could do well by sourcing their products here in the U.S. Host Stuart Varney expressed incredulity that a unionized workforce – with all its cumbersome work rules – could ever build anything as sophisticated as an IPhone.

One of Reese’s colleagues at the labor federation, Amaya Tune, was pretty steamed by Varney’s comments. She created a Twitter hashtag, #unionsbuild, and began a series of tweets at Fox listing various high-tech products built by union members, including nuclear subs, aircraft carriers, the Space Shuttle, 30,000 patents by union NASA scientists… and boxed wine. (Also in bottles, if you prefer.)

Amanda’s tweets got some traction among labor activists; the AFL-CIO posted a blog on its home page, which was picked up by other labor websites. People at Fox apparently pay attention to this stuff – who knew?  — and by this morning’s broadcast, Varney felt obliged to go on the air with an apology of sorts.

Insisting he never meant to say that union members are all thumbs, Varney showed a graphic of Amaya’s Awesome List of high-tech union jobs.  (They left out the boxed wine.)  Sadly, this only served as an excuse for yet another round of union-bashing, during which Varney and his co-hosts claimed – ignoring the evidence they just broadcast – that union work rules make it impossible to get any actual work done.

I dunno – is it possible that aircraft carriers in unionized shipyards build themselves? Or that wine in unionized vineyards puts itself into boxes? (or bottles?) There’s much more to be said about unions and productivity. But for now – with creative pushback against a major TV network in less than 24 hours – we can simply observe those old-fashioned dinosaurs of the U.S. labor movement know a thing or two about new media.