No-Collar Workers

Is There Room for Unions in the New Media World?

Saddled with such a negative rep, a new media union might have to shuck the idea of "solidarity," says Immanuel Ness, one of the Labor Online organizers and a political science professor at Brooklyn College. "Unions need to take into consideration . . . individual excellence and initiative." Ness offers up the concept of a "virtual hiring hall" for when the bubble economy collapses, where the unionized unemployed could look for jobs and employers could find qualified hires. A good idea, except it's a little late. The Web is already filled with job lists, like the WWWAC list, @NY, HotJobs.com. Another possible model is Working Today's "portable health insurance fund" (workingtoday.org) for the irregularly employed, which will debut next March.

As it stands, bonhomie and drinks is as close as most Alley workers will get to political brotherhood. When design shop Avalanche was acquired last year by competitor Razorfish (razorfish.com), the 25 Avalanche employees would get together before the merger to draft a document to protect their benefits and status in the company. "It felt good to get together," says Matt Hanlon, who was at the meetings along with Janensch. "I think there was a letter [written] at the end." Hanlon, now a freelancer, recalls the "great atmosphere" both at Avalanche and at those meetings. But now, a year after after the merger, only seven folks from the meetings are still at Razorfish. The rest exercised their right to scatter to the wind.

The Labor Online conference (laboronline.org) will be held at 99 Hudson Street. The entrance fee is $99, but "no one will be turned away at the door." Call 212-966-4014 for more info.

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