Marcia Stepanek is a regular contributing writer for Justmeans and co-founder of Contribute Media. She also is Publisher of Cause Global, a group blog about the use of social media in social advocacy and innovation. Previously, she was executive editor and co-founder of CIO Insight Magazine and Web strategies editor at BusinessWeek, as well as the national economics correspondent and special proje...
"BP Makes Me Sick" Drive Launches Today
Called the BP Makes Me Sick Coalition, the group is layering a digital networking campaign on top of more traditional, offline political organizing tactics in hopes of building a mass movement against BP and those protecting the oil company from more stringent penalties. "We cannot let the denial of protective gear that hurt so many 9/11 clean-up workers happen again with the Gulf clean-up workers," the coalition's Web site reads. Will it work? Organizers are hopeful: some eight hours after announcing itself, the coalition had amassed more than 25,000 digital signatures on a petition urging BP to allow and distribute more protective clothing.
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, the group behind the campaign, counts among its supporters local groups of Gulf fisherman; locally-elected Democratic officials including Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., and national figures like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a co-founder of New York-based Riverkeeper Alliance, an environmental group. The group began organizing two weeks ago, after the first media reports of worker illnesses began surfacing. [CBS News issued a report tonight, saying that some 47,000 people helping to clean up the oil spill are at risk of respiratory problems from exposure to toxic fumes.] According to Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., clean-up workers are accusing BP of threatening to fire those who wear their own respirators. BP has not yet issued a public response to the allegations, nor has confirmed or denied the report.
Forrest Brown, senior organizing fellow at the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, told the Daily Kos Web site earlier today that the drive is using blogs, social networks, Twitter, and offline Meetups to translate local concern over the health issue into action.
The coalition's announcement isn't the first hint of worker anger: media reports about respiratory problems among clean-up crews have been surfacing for weeks. But the campaign is among the first to attempt using social media to bridge the gap between public awareness of a problem and political mass action to resolve it.
What do you think? Could efforts such as these amass enough public support so as to force BP to start issuing respirators to workers? Or do you think this effort will end up being a political football that will perpetuate more talk than action? Let us hear from you.