Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Ontario teachers hijack the message on anti-union political petition
Ontario Conservative opposition leader Tim Hudak wants to redefine the job description for teachers, requiring them to spend time outside teaching hours doing extra meetings and paperwork (removing any right to work-to-rule) and changing the teacher payscale to punish those who do not "volunteer" for extracurricular activities. As the husband of a teacher (and a supporter of labour rights) I am against this. But what I'm here for is a lesson on unintended consequences in social media.
The Nepean-Carleton Progressive Conservative Riding Association have launched a petition, "Students Deserve Better," that aims to gather public support for their education platform, which will be a major issue in the upcoming election. The petition also had an invitation to send union leaders a message, which would be automatically displayed on the site. The hope was, I assume, to show a public outcry against "union bosses" (democratically elected by teachers) telling teachers to work to rule (which they had voted to do by an overwhelming majority).
The message almost immediately got hijacked by teachers:
By noon today, the comments column was completely dominated by pro-union comments like that above. Dozens of them. By 12:40, the administrator had removed the comments as well as the e-mail messaging form.
(I wish I had collected more of them before my last refresh — let me know if you have screencaps!)
The petition itself is a bit of a mess now. It doesn't even tell you how many have signed. But the easy takeover of its message, through an effort coordinated by pro-teacher social media, is a lesson some nameless political social media "guru" will not soon forget.