September 3, 2021
The Pro Act ads are giving us a taste of what is to come, indicative of how bad it is going to get when we have elections coming in 2022. It will, in essence, ruin YouTube.
Like most everybody in Alaska I have been subjugated to endless ads for or against the Pro Act. The Pro Act is an advancement of laws favorable to unionization. The ads encourage us to contact our representative and senators in Congress to oppose or support the act. The ad against the Pro Act is sponsored by the Workforce Fairness Institute. The sponsor in favor of the Pro Act is the AFL-CIO.
I rarely comment on pending legislation, but this one merits some attention for several reasons. First, the YouTube aspect. I dropped cable TV in 2003, but when visiting my father I am reminded why I do not miss it. Every election season sports an unending avalanche of redundant ads. It sickens me to consider the billions of dollars pumped into advertising. The ad content is middle-school level hot-button tropes designed to get you to the polls played over and over again. The Pro Act ads are giving us a taste of what is to come, indicative of how bad it is going to get when we have elections coming in 2022. It will, in essence, ruin YouTube.
A side-issue is YouTube itself. Whereas Facebook does not directly compete against YouTube, it is interesting to note that Facebook has announced it is going to tamp down the level of political activity on the platform. This will directly affect political organizations. YouTube may want to consider a similar approach with its advertising campaign. While the ad revenue is beguiling, the net effect may be viewers exiting the platform. I already redirect my attention to Rumble and have since added two new channels to my Roku streamer, replacing programs I had previously watched on YouTube. All are ad-free, leaving to the content makers the task of finding sponsors. But I am seeing some programs on YouTube interrupted several times in a 5 minute span with ads in which I cannot exit out of. While it is aggravating, you have to acknowledge that what YouTube is doing with ads is not that much different than what you get with radio. But the frequency of the ads is just one more reason why a) I am moving to other platforms and b) moving to subscriber-based platforms. Subscriber-based platforms are growing, whether it is NetFlix, Magellan TV, Curiosity Stream or HistoryHit.
The solution may be to consider YouTube’s subscription option – which is another trend I foresee. The platform, while hugely popular, is finding new ways to obtain revenue. All those servers sitting in a cloud-center cost money. The content-making industry has generated several ways in which creators can generate income, including direct sponsorship from supporters through Patreon, YouTube monetization and product sponsors. Yet it appears that YouTube is getting to the aggravation level where the ads are making the viewing experience unappealing. It is only a manner of time before the most reasonable option is to pay a fee. Ads can prove to be a real nuisance if not done well. FilmRise was nearly impossible to bear as we had to wade through five ads every 30 minutes. We hardly go there now. YouTube’s current premium rate is close to that of NetFlix. Not sure if it is worth it.
As to politicians and advocacy groups, they might want to carefully monitor the effects of their ads. At some point, the frequency of the ads become counter-productive. Social media platforms don’t always provide the flexibility to control the frequency of the ad, but the forced 15 second ads can be avoided. Otherwise, the viewer can simply click “Exit Ad”. But running the same ad in the space of five minutes is a bit ridiculous.
Back to the Pro Act. It is interesting to note that WFI has a pretty stiff standard. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan both get low scores of 40%. But it is interesting to note that Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley (senators from Missouri and Republicans) also get 40% scores. Hawley is about the most conservative senator in the U.S. Senate. On further research, almost all the legislation is pending, so the “scores” are not actually votes. Yet alarm bells rang for Alaska when Representative Don Young voted in favor of the Pro Act when it passed the House. Most Republicans in the lower 48 need to appreciate that unions and Republicans run in the same circles up here due to the fact unions are pro-development. Unions in Alaska are a large part of highway construction and energy.
The ad campaign did succeed in one important aspect – it brought the matter to my attention. The result is that I investigated the Pro Act. I suggest you read the article from NPR which provides a good summary of the act. Forbes provides some added insight into how the act will affect free-lance contractors.
Like most Democratic initiatives in Congress, it is too big. The proposed legislation is incorporating several controversial aspects of labor law that essentially doom this bill politically and judicially.
The Pro Act advances the “closed shop,” effectively neutralizing Right-to-Work laws that are currently in existence in 27 states. The right to free association is fundamental in our country, and forcing workers to join unions and/or pay union dues violates that liberty.
The Pro Act will require employers to treat contractors as employees under certain conditions. The irony of this doesn’t escape me, being that the biggest contractor of employees I know of is the federal government! Contracted employees are “free-lance” for a reason – it is their choice. This is one example of an idea that should be handled under separate legislation. It is complicating and the effects are difficult to measure: how many hours are required, benefits, pension and retirement contributions, and leave.
Unionization procedures – this is another example of why this issue needs to be addressed individually. The Pro Act opened up a real can of worms with this. It is actually the one item I have some sympathy on. Yet it introduces some serious concerns such as possibly compromising the secret ballot and violating personal private information.
I am not anti-union. I have worked under the AFL-CIO twice in my lifetime and was represented by a union as a federal employee. I had no problem with it. The union provided several resources that were noticeably absent in a non-union shop. But a “closed shop” is a formula for disaster because the union is only held accountable to the degree that people are willing to pay dues. The increased politicization of unions is despised by many union members because their dues are funding politicians and agendas they would not approve. Nothing more clearly demonstrates this problem than what occurred in the 2020 election when the AFL-CIO endorsed Joe Biden who then immediately terminated the Keystone Pipeline project, eliminating as many as 8,000 union jobs. No – union leaders do NOT have your best interest in mind. It is all about politics and power. That’s reality.
The other example of how unions are politicized is within the AFT and NEA, two teacher unions. Unions need to focus on serving the economic needs of their members. I respect their right to state their views in regard to safety (COVID-19). But advancing Critical Race Theory? And, as with the AFL-CIO, they use union fees to advance political issues and candidates that have little to do with their members’ working conditions. Furthermore, they are anti-liberty by opposing school choice. The AFT and NEA really need to get back to basics. They do not need to get in the face of parents and there is nothing positive about forbidding parents to choose the school they wish their children to attend. The “open shop” is one solution. Unions need to earn the support of the members they purport to represent.
“House Democrats Pass Bill That Would Protect Worker Organizing Efforts”, NPR, by Don Gonyea, March 9, 2021
“What The Pro Act Means For Freelancers And The Future Of Work”, Forbes, by Matthew Mottola, March 22, 2021
“Fact-check: Is Biden 'destroying 11,000 jobs' by revoking Keystone pipeline?”, Austin-American Statesman, by Daniel Funke, January 22, 2021
“Facebook’s Political Content Dilemma”, Bloomberg, by Kurt Wagner, September 2, 2021
By Eric Niewoehner
© Copyright 2021 to Eric Niewoehner.
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