May Day in 2020 has been the quietest since it originated, way back in Chicago, 1886. Known as the Haymarket affair, labourers demonstrated for an 8-hour day which was met with violence from police at that time.
Now May 1st or International Workers day as it is also known, is celebrated all over the world and is a reminder to all of us no matter what our job, that we have rights and that we are not alone in our daily struggles.
PR and communications whether it is in house or done through an external agency is to many considered a specialism that exists as an add on to an organisation.
Yet I would argue, PR and communications is a sector that has a lot of similarities with a modern-day factory and is key to the core wealth producing process.
What company can make money today without good external communication or good media relations?
Whether companies are SMEs or big corporations, internal communication is also critical to its functioning.
If you work in the non-profit sector, fundraising or trying to increase membership, you need to be able to effectively sell your ideas and your vision.
And now with Coronavirus digital communication has taken centre stage in the absence of being able to meet face to face.
Leaders of organisations who may not be comfortable in front of a camera are getting a crash course in how to position their phone and apply ‘the rule of thirds.’
It is obvious who amongst them has had a communications specialist in their ear and who hasn’t!
But PR and comms is now something that most people have to work into their job in one way or another.
It is becoming a key skill for any job in the 21st century.
However, one unfortunate similarity with early factory production during the industrial revolution, is the lack of union density, shrinking pay packets and poor health and safety, that many in the sector face.
Expansion in jobs and the value of communications has not led to higher or fair pay and the gender pay gap remains a problem.
This has not been helped by the Corona pandemic which has left many facing an uncertain future around furloughing, pay cuts and redundancy.
The NUJ PR and Communications branch in London has been assisting members with queries around furloughing and pay issues.
But ultimately only by building collective strength in the workplace can PR and comms professionals best protect themselves.
Union membership is a personal insurance policy at its most basic level. But membership of the NUJ is much more than that. It is about building links and solidarity with a wide range of people in the media and communications industry, people like you with the same aims, ambitions and fears.
So if you are a member of the NUJ in a media office, a PR agency or a marketing department, ask your colleague to join us. If they are in a rival firm, ask them to join. They are not your competition in the union; they are colleagues working towards a shared goal of better pay, conditions and a more secure future.
Together we are stronger and when we are stronger, we win!
- John Millington is Chair of NUJ PR and Communications Branch in London. He writes this in a personal capacity.