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   August, 2011

Images that Inspired a Movement

Images inspire, they motivate, and they are the foundation of movements. In Wisconsin, Scott Walker’s threats against the public were the spark needed to ignite action: hundreds of thousands of people flocked to Madison to protest his actions. Picture after picture was uploaded and shared online, helping to encourage others to make the trip to Madison, or even order someone a pizza from half-way around the world. Images played a vital role in keeping the momentum thriving from the day Walker’s anti-union bill was announced until the day we took down two pro-Walker Republicans and replaced them with the voices of the middle class.

All of us at Revolution Messaging were excited to be a part of this movement. We firmly believe that years from now we will look at the images below and remember the moment when we stood together and turned the tide against those that seek to destroy what makes America great – the middle class.

Take a look at some of our favorite images and help us remember this historic movement by sending your own favorites to democracy@revolutionmessaging.com.


The Newest Messaging System in Town

A new messaging system is in town – one more system that the media is saying will threaten SMS messaging: Facebook Messenger. Surprised that Facebook is behind this new app? They seem to be rolling out something new every week and this week it happens to be a new way for people to text each other without paying carriers’ SMS fees.

In a past post, we wrote about the potential for Apple’s messaging system, iMessage (released in June 2011), to influence carriers to alleviate some of the costly text messaging fees on its users in order to keep people from abandoning SMS and fully adopting a free approach. Now, these messaging systems are not anywhere close to making SMS obsolete, but could Facebook Messenger be another push in the right, and cheaper, direction?

Facebook Messenger may be even more appealing to the masses since it can be linked to their Facebook account – an account we all know is used multiple times a day by most people. This part has seemed to stir up some controversy regarding the privacy of your phone’s address book. However, with this new app, the syncing capabilities will be appreciated: the text messages sent will automatically be stored in the messaging center of their Facebook account for easy access.

And what happens if the user you try to contact through Facebook Messenger isn’t signed in? It just shows up on their phone as an SMS text – a very mobile centric system. No matter whether you send a text through the app or send a message through Facebook or an IM through Facebook’s instant messaging system, all the messages will end up in one thread keeping users organized and having their past conversations in one easy location.

Is this enough to ask our carriers to start caring about losing potential users to new messaging apps that may turn people away from purchasing SMS packages for their cell phones? Verizon, why will people want to pay you per incoming and outgoing texts if they can send one for free with Facebook Messenger? AT&T, why will your customers continue to buy into expensive unlimited SMS packages when they have free, unlimited messages with iMessages? This is another group stepping into the world of messaging systems and, hopefully, this group adds more competition to the field of SMS, creating an urgent environment for the carriers to generate a more just system for the users.


NLRB Jeopardizing Workers’ Protected Speech

Workers beware – your free speech may be in danger.  Have you ever posted a comment on Facebook about your job or maybe a coworker? Did you ever need to vent after a bad week at the office? Well, be careful, you might not be covered by protected speech anymore.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) looks like it’s changing its mind on whether or not comments made by employees on social media sites are protected under federal labor law or not. At first, the NLRB took the right path and issued complaints against employers who prohibited or disciplined employees who expressed themselves on Facebook and commented on some negative aspects of work. But in a few recent cases, it looks like the NLRB isn’t coming to the rescue anymore – they are leaving protected speech, one of our most valued rights, in the dust.

According to Mondaq, the NLRB seems to be leaving employees out to dry with a few recent cases. They denied employees’ requests to issue a complaint against employers, using the excuse that the comments made in all three cases on Facebook were “personal gripes” and not “protected concerted activity,” which is found under the protection of the National Labor Relations Act.

Remember when you had to worry about your Facebook pages because future employers would look at your pictures and postings before they hired you? Well, the worrying isn’t over when you do get the job. With the NLRB’s latest denials to defend employees’ protected speech on social media sites, every word you say online about a bad day or an unfair employee could be used against you.

Complaining online about being stuck at a job where you haven’t gotten a raise in five years? The NLRB won’t consider that protected concerted activity and you may find yourself fired for words written online. Ever have a bad day and write a complaint on Facebook about your manager? Again, you can find yourself immediately fired with no NLRB to protect your right to free speech.

This is just one more step in the wrong direction for workers, one more right that is being taken away. What’s next?

 

The three most recent cases from Masdaq:

Here is a quick summary of the three recent cases that the NLRB’s Division of Advice declined to issue complaints involving employer discipline of employees for their social networking activity, even where their online comments were job-related.

  • In JT’s Porch Saloon & Eatery, Ltd., an employee’s online conversation with a relative, stating that he had gone five years without a raise and commenting negatively about his employer’s customers, was not protected concerted activity.  The NLRB held that the online complaints were never discussed with other employees nor did other employees respond to the posting.
  • In Martin House, an employee commented during an online conversation on Facebook with non-employees about her work for a mental health service provider, stating that it was “spooky” working at night in a “mental institution.”  The NLRB found no basis to issue a complaint, finding that the online postings did not mention any terms or conditions of employment, were not discussed with other employees, and received no comments or responses from other employees.
  • In Wal-Mart, a customer service representative posted disparaging comments about his manager and Wal-Mart on his Facebook page.  Although two co-workers responded to his posting, the NLRB concluded that the comments merely expressed the employees’ “individual gripes” and did not constitute an effort to induce Wal-Mart employees to engage in group action.[1]


[1] Dunn, Jennifer and Hass, Doug. United States: NLRB Signals Retreat On Cases Involving Employee Comments. 05 Aug 2011

 


The Drawbacks of Text-to-Donate

California Governor Jerry Brown declared his support for allowing campaigns in California to start accepting donations via text message. On the surface this seems like a no-brainer as online donations have brought millions, if not billions, of dollars into campaigns through large and small donations. But text-to-donate has way too many drawbacks before it becomes a political reality.

Drawback one: Reporting. Currently, it’s illegal for a campaign to accept money via text message. Mobile carriers are not setup to track compliance data. So is the donor actually eligible to give? Are they an American over the age of majority? Have they exceeded campaign donation limits? Are they an employee of the Government? None of this information is currently available on a national level and probably won’t be for California elections.

Drawback two: Waiting. Mobile donations can take 90 days to process. Except in the case of the Haiti earthquake, mobile carriers wait until customers pay their bills before they start writing checks to the beneficiary. In the case of many special elections, runoffs or general elections, the 90-day period before a campaign gets its check from the mobile carrier may be post-Election Day.

Drawback three: Donation size. Mobile carriers aren’t credit card companies. They are in the business of taking money, not handing it out. Many carriers won’t start cutting checks until the amount donated has reached a certain threshold. For smaller or less popular campaigns this means the money could never come. Donors will be charged and the donations will be collected, but the campaign won’t see the money.

Drawback four: Fees. Mobile phone companies allow 501(c)(3) non-profits the ability to collect donations via text for a small charge or sometimes for free. But campaigns may not fit into that category. At this point, there isn’t a category for political campaigns and mobile giving fees are high, really high – 20 to 50 percent high. So now, a $5 donation is really worth $2.50. It’s up to the carriers to waive or lower this fee. Does Verizon really want to lower the fees for every person running for office in the entire state of California? Or for all political campaigns if this law can work on a federal level one day? Until then, it’s very cost prohibitive.

Drawback five: Digital Divide. Users with prepaid phones cannot participate nor can Cricket mobile customers, as Cricket doesn’t allow subscribers access to the shortcodes necessary to donate.

While mobile giving is certainly a great way to allow instant and small donations, it’s not feasible right now. The carriers need to change the way they operate, and states and the federal government need to adjust required disclosures for mobile giving. Once that happens, then we can begin the discussion on using mobile giving for campaigns. But simply allowing mobile donations in California is not the way to do it. If Governor Brown wants to bring something into the online age, he should start with online voter registration.