‘Bing, Bang, Zoom:’ The Reviews Are In On The Way To Communicate During COVID - Some ‘Like It, Others Don’t,’ But The Web-Based Video Conferencing Tool Is ‘Here To Stay’ As Labor Looks To ‘Remain Connected’
WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: Pictured above (WNYLaborToday.com) is a snapshot of a recently-held Zoom meeting of the Niagara-Orleans AFL-CIO Central Labor Council, which Your On-Line Labor Newspaper also participated in. Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic and the need to socially distance, the web-based video conferencing tool allows users to meet on-line, with or without video. Used since early in the year, Zoom has grown to become an important communications tool for Organized Labor.
(BUFFALO, NEW YORK) – Bing, Bang, Zoom - the reviews are in on the latest way for Organized Labor to communicate during these times of COVID, and while some Labor Leaders like it - while others don’t, this web-based video conferencing tool is apparently here to stay as Unions look to maintain a connection with each other and their Members.
WNYLaborToday.com first noticed Zoom back in April, when the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO kicked off its Statewide Convention on the on-line conferencing tool. A press release said Delegates from Labor Unions representing more than 700,000 Working Men and Women from across The Quaker State were coming together to address the impact of COVID-19 on Worker Health and Safety, and to participate in a call for action to protect all Front Line Workers.
For the record, Zoom is a web-based video conferencing tool with a local desktop client and a mobile App that allows users to meet on-line, with or without video. It offers quality video, audio and a wireless screen-sharing performance across a number of telecommunications outlets.
An initiative led by the National AFL-CIO and then the New York State AFL-CIO across The Empire State, as the weeks and months went by more and more Unions, their Leadership, Staff and Members began to plug into Zoom as the only way to safely conduct meetings during this Coronavirus Pandemic, which has failed to disappear in the warm Summer months across the United States, as previously speculated by Republican President Donald Trump.
Your On-Line Labor Newspaper recently talked to several Union Leaders and Representatives across Buffalo and Western New York, as well as with the Presidents of the Rochester and Central New York AFL-CIO Area Labor Federations, about their use of Zoom and their observations on how it’s working out for them.
Here’s what they had to say:
Western New York AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation President Richard Lipsitz, whose Regional Labor Federation’s 140 affiliated Local Unions combine to represent 145,000 Union Workers in the Public and Private Sectors and the Building Trades: “It’s ‘working out.’ I’m on three to four times a week with our ALF, Executive Board Committee and Political Action meetings. I also attend Erie County Industrial Development Agency (Zoom) meetings (where he serves as an appointed Board Member). ‘Personally, I don’t see a better option.’ ‘I would give it a mark of success.’ ‘While it is not a substitute for real meeting, it’s important we have this.’ ‘It’s better than nothing and it keeps us alive.’ Since we’re ‘not able to be together, it’s not a bad substitute.’”
New York State AFL-CIO Representative Angela Blue, who was tasked with overseeing the Zoom effort across Western New York and is assisting area Labor in utilizing the on-line communications tool: “We started using it after the lockdown back in March. While it ‘took us a while to get used to it, it’s going great’ (now). We’d ‘never used technology like this before.’ Some (in the Labor Movement) ‘needed to update’ their computers (to accommodate the Zoom program), ‘but everyone was willing to try it and the feedback I’ve gotten is that they like it.’ It is ‘user-friendly.’ The New York State AFL-CIO has been ‘very instrumental’ (in getting Labor to use it) and Kevin Eitzmann (the State AFL-CIO’s Digital Director) ‘has provided a lot of assistance.’ People (in the Labor Movement) are ‘very happy to be connected and see each other on screen.’ It’s still a ‘real bummer not to be connected’ (in person), ‘but everyone is real thankful’ the National AFL-CIO first ‘got us hooked up with this’ and (helped) set up accounts (for individual Labor Federations and Councils). It’s being used ‘nationwide now.’”
Buffalo AFL-CIO Central Labor Council President Denise Abbott: “Oh my God, I think I’ve been involved in at least (100) of them. It’s ‘been good.’ It’s allowed us to ‘see’ people and ‘we’re getting good work done with good conversations.’ In fact, ‘I like’ the (Zoom) meetings. ‘There’s been a lot of interaction (during them) and it seems to ‘brighten people up.’ Overall the feedback I’ve gotten is that it is ‘very positive.’ But there still are those who ‘really do miss the personal interaction” and I’ve actually had a couple of people tell me they are ‘sick of them’ (due to the fact many might have several scheduled Zoom meetings each week). I think Labor ‘will continue to utilize (Zoom) ‘even more’ (in the future). It’s ‘easy’ to arrange a meeting.”
Niagara-Orleans AFL-CIO Central Labor Council President Jim Briggs: “Zoom has been a ‘great stop gap that’s enabled (the Labor Movement) to stay in touch’ with Leadership and Membership. ‘The problem is that it takes the personal connection out in everyday life.’ I ‘struggle with that part of it.’ ‘I hope we can get back to the day when we meet face-to-face because this is how we make a living - sitting in a room, talking to people, seeing their faces, their body language.’ ‘You lose that.’ Overall I would give it a (B+), ‘but I don’t think it has been easy to use - I’m just not an (technology) guy.’ I’m ‘not saying it doesn’t fit’ (my preferred mode of communication), ‘but I would have steered away from it’ (if the circumstances were different). I ‘don’t hate it and it’s not the worst thing that could every happen, but I hope it’s not part of our future.’ I ‘certainly don’t like it for (contract) negotiations.’”
Niagara-Orleans Central Labor Council/United Way Labor Liaison Bill Jakobi: “It’s ‘something new and it’s taken some time to get used to, but it’s a good way to keep things going’ (in the Labor Movement). With the ‘emerging technology of today, it could be part of (Organized Labor’s) future.’ ‘Just think, if we didn’t have (Zoom), we would have a problem with communications.’ ‘Change is hard, but people just have to get used to it.’”
Rochester & Genesee Valley AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation President Dan Maloney, who Labor Federation oversees five area Labor Councils - Chemung/Schuyler, Finger Lakes, Genesee/Wyoming, Rochester & Vicinity and Steuben/Livingston, that combine to represents around 100,000 Members: “I’m ‘on them all’ for various E-Boards of the Labor Councils within the Federation, as well as Governor (Andrew) Cuomo’s Control Room Board, which I was appointed to (during the Coronavirus Pandemic). I’m ‘beyond sick ‘of (Zoom meetings). ‘I’m not able to read people’s face with such tiny (boxed) images (that appear on one’s computer screen).’ ‘Some of those who are younger (in the Labor Movement) are comfortable (with Zoom), but it’s us Baby Boomers who are uncomfortable.’ ‘And when it comes to our Retirees, they don’t want any part of it.’”
Central New York AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation President AnnMarie Taliercio, whose Labor Organization represents more than 100,000 Members of 200 Local Unions in 11 Central New York Counties: Broome, Cayuga, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Madison, Onondaga, Oswego, Otsego, Tioga and Tompkins: “(Zoom) ‘has been a challenge, but it is keeping everyone (in the Labor Movement) going. ‘ It’s a ‘whole new world (for us), but I must say it’s gone very well.’ ‘Participation’s been good and it’s been fun.’ ‘We keep (meetings) to within an hour because if it goes a little too long, people are out.’ ‘Personally, I miss the physical presence (of meetings) and all of us being socially involved, but I do see the energy in people’s eyes (who attend).’ And, ‘it’s exhausting’ - ‘having to sit up straight all the time’ (laughter). The National and State AFL-CIO provided us with training and (State AFL-CIO Field Coordinator) Wendy Colucci ‘has done a great job’ (helping all within the Federation to take full advantage of the technology). With ‘so many’ Labor Councils (six) in our Federation, ‘it is attractive to those who would have to drive for long distances’ (to physically attend a meeting). ‘I think this will always be a tool (for Labor in the future), but everyone has to feel comfortable (participating).’ ‘Remember, everyone in Labor isn’t a young person.’”