Stick together like glue? Not in decentralized world

tn_newsies1.jpg How the world has changed since street urchins like these had to buy “papes” from the stingy newsbarons Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, who provoke a strike by “Newsies” as dramatized in a Disney musical of the same name. I watched it last night as part of a Labor Day homeschooling assignment dreamed up by my wife. It was a rousing film and based on the true story of an 1899 strike led by a one-eyed fellow that the other papers nicknamed Kid Blink, who is reported to have told 2,000 rallying strikers, in dialect:

“Friens and feller workers. Dis is a time which tries de hearts of men. Dis is de time when we’se got to stick together like glue…. We know wot we wants and we’ll git it even if we is blind.”

Very rousing stuff but so anachronistic. I’m mindful of this because I’ve been wondering what to say in response to Tish Grier, who recently wondered aloud “Could a Blogger’s Union Help Us Negotiate Fair Wages?” I certainly sympathize with the wish for higher wages. But it’s difficult to imagine a diffused workforce coalesing. And if it did who is there to strike against in a decentralized world? Mass media? If that were weak versus labor their incumbent unions would be in better shape. Should a union try to enforce terms on web publishing startups? That seems rather like chasing smoke with the added aura of thuggery — youse guys will pay us what we’re wort or we’ll mail-bomb your site — or some such cyber equivalent of the brute force that settles strikes.

I continue to think that it difficult to get people together for any sustained purpose based on anger, not any productive purpose at any rate and if we can organize at all, why not organize for self improvement and form small teams with greater earning power based on a melding of skills. And not to stick together like glue but rather as “Small Pieces Loosely Joined” to use the title and the spirit of the book by David Weinberger.

I’ve laid out some of my own thoughs about media cooperatives. Of course I so far lack the oomph to get this idea beyond the blathering stage. I’ll keep on thinking and plotting. But wouldn’t it be easier if we were newsies and we at least had somebody we could hate, maybe even punch!