HCCW: Social Media, Insecure Work and New Conceptions of Labor Solidarity

Chris Benner
Environmental Studies and Sociology
UC Davis

Jesse Drew
Cinema and Digital Media
UC Davis

Social media has become a powerful means for connecting people and supporting social movement organizing. At the same time, rapid technological change, globalization and volatile competitive conditions have contributed to growing insecurity in work, in which the workplace is less frequently a site of long-term stability and collective conceptions of work have been eroded as a basis for solidarity. As a result, online solidarity networks have rarely focused on work, while traditional labor organizations have rarely been innovators in their use of social media. This working group focused on exceptions, particularly in transportation and food chain industries, where social media have been powerful tools for connecting people around labor issues across multiple and disparate places. What are the conceptions of work that underpin these new formations of labor solidarity, and how do they compare with formations of solidarity amongst similar insecure workers in the past? What role do social media play in shaping the nature of solidarity within these labor networks, and how do these roles differ from more traditional media in the past? At the intersection of history, media studies, and labor organizing, this working group brought new insights to our understanding of shifting conceptions of work and solidarity.