Organizing & running a union digitally

The COVID-19 virus is forcing organizations and their members to work virtually as much as possible. Due to the abruptness, some organizations are ill-prepared for this transition.  In order to be productive, there are common requirements that both organizations and members need. The Canadian Freelance Union has been functioning remotely since our founding. Here’s some time tips to support organizations and members when working remotely. 


Our executive team has virtual monthly meetings. Meetings are formal (quorum required) and mandatory to allow for operational business as usual. It's important that dates are set in advance, allowing people to block dates far in advance.  We meet using the video conference software, Zoom (more below). If you do conference calls, consider using video chat so that you can see each other (and if you do utilize video chat for conference calls, remember to maintain the same etiquette as you would for an in-person meeting).  


The CFU provides member support with grievance issues. This is all done virtually, and starts with the members filling out an online form. This information goes directly to the support team. Once the information is reviewed, we host a Zoom meeting  with the impacted member. The goal of that meeting is to clarify any questions and set expectations on possible actions/outcomes. We compile a Google document which we share with the member to help us draft an appropriate response.  


The CFU communicates with its members on a regular basis using a variety of methods.  We have an email list-serv that goes out regularly to inform members of the ongoing work of the union. We use social media tools such as twitter, Facebook etc to communicate more frequently with members. Finally, we also have chat tools like Slack that allow for instant communication to each other and members.  With Slack, you have the ability to create lots of different channels, so your conversations can be organized by topics and/or teams.


It’s important that everyone in your organization uses the same tools as much as possible so there is seamless integration. There are a lot of tools out there ranging from free ones to ones with monthly packages and enhanced features.  


Zoom is one of the more popular video conferencing tools. Under the free plan you have access to run video meetings up to 40 minutes with up to 100 participants. Zoom’s biggest advantage is that participants do not need an account. A link is sufficient. The paid plan is relatively cheap especially when you buy the annual plan.

Google announced that it would be rolling out free access to “advanced” features for Hangouts Meet to all globally through July 1st. Organizations can host meetings with up to 250 participants, live stream to up to 100,000 viewers within a single domain, and record and save meetings to Google Drive. 

Microsoft is offering free access to Microsoft Teams with up to 250 video meeting participants and live streams of up to 10,000 viewers. 


Slack is an instant communication app that integrates with Google DriveMicrosoft OneDrive and Dropbox.

WhatsApp is a mobile app for group messaging connected to a phone number and has no storage limits.


Syncing and backing up files as often as possible is key. For example, individuals can duplicate information from a laptop to an external hard drive, the cloud, another computer or a flash drive. 

Organizations can use cloud-managed backup services which don’t require on-premise infrastructure and can be checked from anywhere.

There are several cloud resources available and it's important that everyone use the same service. 

Google Drive allows for up to 15GB of free space on their servers. 

Dropbox, provides a central hub for teams to access all of the content they need from anywhere, on any device. The contents of these folders are synchronized to Dropbox's servers and to other computers and devices where the user has installed Dropbox, keeping the same files up-to-date on all devices. 


If you don’t have internet at home and have to use public wifi, take some precautions and only login to sites that have HTTPS in the address bar. 

Don’t use unsecured wifi networks, as they are prime spots for malicious parties to collect confidential information.

It’s as important to ensure that all accounts are protected with strong passwords and set up two-factor authentication. Two -factor authentication (2FA) and two-step verification (2SV) involve an additional step to add an extra layer of protection to your accounts.

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