CHICAGO — Do bloggers need their own Norma Rae?
In a move that might make some people scratch their heads, a loosely formed coalition of left-leaning bloggers is trying to band together to form a labor union it hopes will help members receive health insurance, conduct collective bargaining or even set professional standards.
The effort is an extension of the blogosphere's growing power and presence, especially within the political realm, and for many, evokes memories of the early labor organization of freelance writers in the 1980s.
Organizers hope a bloggers' labor group will showcase not only the growing professionalism of the Web-based writers but also the importance of their roles in candidates' campaigns.
"I think people have just gotten to the point where people outside the blogosphere understand the value of what it is that we do on the progressive side," said Susie Madrak, author of the Suburban Guerrilla blog, who is active in the union campaign. "And I think they feel a little more entitled to ask for something now."
But just what that something is may be hard to say.
In a world as diverse, vocal and unwieldy as the blogosphere, there's no consensus about what type of organization is needed and who should be included.
Some argue for a free-standing association for activist bloggers while others suggest a guild open to any blogger -- including such disparate groups as knitting fans and video gamers -- that could be created within established labor organizations.
Others see a blogger coalition as a way to find health insurance discounts, fight for press credentials or even establish guidelines for dealing with advertising and presenting data.
"It would raise the professionalism," said Leslie Robinson, a writer at ColoradoConfidential.com. "Maybe we could get more jobs, bona fide jobs."
But not everyone is on board.
"The reason I like blogging is that it's very anarchistic. I can do whatever I want whenever I want, and oh my God, you're not going to tell me what to do," said Curt Hopkins, founder of the Committee to Protect Bloggers.
"The blogosphere is such a weird term and such a weird idea. It's anyone who wants to do it," Hopkins said. "There's absolutely no commonality there. How will they find a commonality to go on? I think it's doomed to failure on any sort of large scale."
While bloggers work to organize their own labor movement, their growing numbers are already being courted by some unions.
"Bloggers are on our radar screen right now for approaching and recruiting into the union," said Gerry Colby, president of the National Writers Union, a local of the United Auto Workers. "We're trying to develop strategies to reach bloggers and encourage them to join."
There's decidedly less support for a union movement among conservative bloggers.
Mark Noonan, an editor at Blogs for Bush and a senior writer at GOP Bloggers, said he worried that a blogger union would undermine the freewheeling nature of the blogosphere, regardless of its political composition.