SOPA & PIPA: Coordinated Advocacy

Social media sites Wikipedia and Google held a blackout day on Wednesday, January 18, 2012 to highlight their opposition to the "Stop Online Piracy Act" (SOPA) and the "Protect Intellectual Property Act" (PIPA) bills in Congress. Wikipedia claimed that over 162 million people saw the blackout message on its website. One day later on January 19, the unofficial vote ledger switched from 80 members of Congress supporting SOPA/PIPA and 31 opposing to 65 supporting and 101 opposing it. This was a net loss of 85 votes for the SOPA/PIPA advocates in only one day!
How did this happen? Coordinated advocacy by these major websites leveraged the interests of thousands of like-minded citizens to change the policy calculus of lawmakers.
SHRM also works to provide its members a chance to change the opinions of lawmakers. On the HR public policy front, SHRM advocates have been increasingly active as the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued several high-profile case decisions and rules in 2011. SHRM provided its members a chance to submit individual comments during the rulemaking process on both the NLRB’s employee rights notice poster and “quickie elections.” In addition, SHRM submitted its own official comments on both rules. 
In the end, the NLRB’s quick election final rule cited SHRM twice; it noted SHRM’s contention that the rulemaking process was “insufficiently transparent,” and that SHRM believed the quick election rule’s shortened time period between the petition and election will be “particularly difficult for small businesses,” which do not have in-house labor departments to advise them. Moreover, the NLRB’s final rule did not include several troublesome provisions that were a part of the original proposed rule, such as the requirements that any pre-election hearing be held within seven days after the notice of hearing and that employee voter lists supplied by the employer to the union include employees’ personal e-mail addresses and telephone numbers.. 
This is just one example of how SHRM member involvement in the policy process can improve outcomes for all of our workplaces. Maybe the next step for SHRM advocacy is an “Internet blackout day” of our own?! 
In the meantime, don’t miss SHRM’s election year 2012 Employment Law & Legislative Conference in Washington on March 6-9, 2012.
The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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