The Center for Peoples Media (CPM) recognizes mainstream news will never produce unbiased labor reporting. In order to address this problem, we aim to build a non-sectarian working class audience for news reports, docu-shorts, journalism for and by the people. CPM is the pilot project of People’s Media Advocacy, Asia.
People’s Media Advocacy Asia:
Unions on the workplace beat
People’s Media Advocacy Asia (PMAA) was founded in 2015 with the intent to build
a grass-roots social media network for labour groups to air their campaigns and
promote human rights in the workplace. The mission of PMAA is to produce labour
journalism and independent media for and by the people on labour issues that the
mainstream press tends to avoid.
A key focus of our efforts is our core project called, “Labour Pulse: Unions on the
workplace beat”, which provides specialized media training to rank-and-file
members of Filipino trade unions. These workers themselves will become “Labour
Pulse” reporters, investigating violations of human rights in the workplace, covering
labour actions, publicizing on-going campaigns, and promoting labour’s legislative
While the mainstream press is slow to cover labour stories, violations of workers’
rights and their workplace safety continues unabated. PMAA fills this void, ensuring
that major violations do not go unreported. To this end, PMAA has also established a
media centre to improve the viability of Philippine labour campaigns, managing
labour’s social media presence via the Centre for Peoples Media (CPM).
PMAA works closely with the labour coalition Nagkaisa (UNITED), a recent
development in the Philippine labour movement which brings together a spectrum
of Philippine unions and left-leaning labour organizations. By focusing on on-going
labour campaigns, PMAA provides a service to workers of the Nagkaisa (UNITED)
coalition that cannot be fulfilled by individual members. PMAA guides these workers
as they produce independent reports on human rights violations in the workplace,
and then aggregates and circulates these reports on a social media network that will
eventually reach all members of the coalition. This network includes access to a
broader audience through our contacts involved in the mainstream media –
sympathetic journalists who are members of PMAA’s board on an independent
capacity. In this way, labour campaigns that are locked out of the mainstream media
can reach and mobilize their intended audiences.
To strengthen the media capacity of labour organisations
To sustain a platform upon which labour issues can reach a wider audience
through social media and the mainstream media
To deepen the public discourse on labour rights in the Philippines through
critical and independent journalism
Organisational Structure and History
In 2013, prior to PMAA’s founding, PhD student Daniel Rudin (UCSC) worked with
various labour groups to investigate the state of Philippine labour for the
multimedia news project “Workers Find Ways.” (1) In May 2015, the tragic Kentex
factory fire (2) would make clear that neither the then-Aquino administration nor the
mainstream media would take up labour’s agenda.
By June of the same year, labour organisers and journalists came together, seeing
the need to formalise PMAA as a registered NGO. We envisioned creating a new
media platform for grassroots labour journalism in the Philippines, starting with a
social media network for labour groups to air their campaigns and document labour
Involved as volunteers in the day-to-day operations of PMAA are former ABS-CBN
news producer Jim Libiran, also of the Labor, Education, and Research Network
(LEARN), and Daniel Rudin.
PMAA has made it a point to ensure that the organisation is organically linked to the
communities and grassroots organisations with which it works. As such, the PMAA
board is comprised of labour organizers, independent filmmakers, and media
advocates. Board members include:
Alan Tanjusay, spokesman of the Associated Labor Unions (ALU-TUCP)
Veronica Uy, former editor at Interaksyon
Purple Romero, investigative journalist
Josua Mata, Secretary-General of APL-SENTRO
Wilson Fortaleza, spokesperson of Partido Manggagawa (Labour Party)
Daniel Rudin, PhD student in Film & Digital Media at University of California, Santa Cruz.
PMAA is currently employing an editor, a journalist, and a social media manager on
a project basis. Trainers and media workers are on-call for when PMAA holds
seminars or makes videos; they are reimbursed per-job. PMAA trains “Labour Pulse”
reports from the unions; these workers operate as citizen journalists to agitate and
mobilize others at little cost. CPM is able to operate without full-time staff due to the
volunteer efforts of Rudin and Libiran, as well as periodic help from volunteer
University of the Philippines students.
Nearly a century ago, the ILO constitution urgently called for “the protection of the
worker against sickness, disease and injury arising out of his employment.” (3) And yet
the Philippines, which has not ratified the ILO Labor Inspection Convention, has a
labour bureau woefully understaffed due to budget constraints. Despite revamped
inspection rules, the 2015 Kentex tragedy (4) raised serious concerns about the
Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) ability to adequately enforce basic
occupational health and safety standards.
Importantly, an analysis of mainstream media coverage of workplace incidents like
the Kentex fire would reveal that news outlets tend to focus on localized allegations
of corruption as the cause of such tragedies, overlooking broader political dynamics
informing their frequency.
Although the Philippines is among the most open societies in Asia, its weak political
institutions are often taken to be an expression of “elite democracy” (5) – a system that
insulates clients of powerful political figures from state prosecution and, at times,
For instance, the Kentex sweatshop factory in Valenzuela (6) had passed government
inspection eight months before the fire, (7) as it was revealed that, among other
violations, there were no fire exits. While current or future legislative reforms are
no guarantee of concrete improvements in working conditions, what is clear is that
a greater prerogative is placed on trade unions to promote public dialogue about the
importance of labour rights, transparency, and accountability in the workplace.
Indeed mainstream media coverage cannot be expected to expose routine labour
violations, as coverage is generally not oriented toward labour as an audience in
itself or a coherent political constituency. Organised labour can, in effect, provide
more a more rigorous discourse on human rights and its intersections with
workplace rights and rule of law.
The need for a public sphere of this nature was manifested through labour research
on Kentex collected by DOLE’s new joint safety inspection team called the “Task
Force Valenzuela” or “TFV” (8). In June 2015, just months after the Kentex fire, the TFV
was organized with a mandate to conduct factory inspections of adjacent Valenzuela
sweatshops. Alongside DOLE inspectors, the team included 19 representatives from
rank-and-file trade union members from the Nagkaisa labour coalition.
The inspection team turned up credible information that an astonishing 99% of
factories in the area were not up to labour code regulations. Moreover, it
encountered evidence that factory inspectors were routinely bribed. In fact, the TFV
itself was offered bribes by various sweatshops during the inspections (9).
The findings of the TFV have a deeper significance: they indicate that unions have a
significant and critical role to play in disseminating information to their members
and the public at large. Indeed when the former Aquino administration had
dialogued with the leaders of Nagkaisa for a number of years without any clear
outcome, frustrated workers turned to social media to circulate their campaigns,
from photos of local pickets to information on the Security of Tenure bill (10).
More recently, the new administration under Rodrigo Duterte has foregrounded the
question of human rights and its intersections with the demands of organised
labour (11). In the meantime, entrenched corruption and political impunity continue to
have a negative impact on state-mandated workplace safety and basic labour rights.
Overall, we believe PMAA is a worthwhile endeavor, and we continue to seek
structural and project-based funding to sustain our efforts. PMAA labour news can
continue to bolster the labour movement with trainings, documentary, and news,
but we will need support. At the moment, trade unions in the Philippines are
fighting a defensive battle and cannot invest financially in media publicity.
Projects similar to PMAA’s have been active in the United States. Jesse Drew, Prof. of
Cinema and Technocultural Studies, UC Davis, has developed a digital platform
called “Stories of Solidarity” (12) that helps precarious American workers submit their
stories to union organizers. The “Fight for 15” campaign is another example of
narrating worker struggles via social media. PMAA builds on these ideas in a way
both timely and well suited to the current labor situation.
PMAA has piloted media training for individuals from a variety of trade unions and
labour groups, primarily within the Nagkaisa (UNITED) coalition. We have
completed a series of seminars in Manila, Negros province, Davao city, and General
Santos city. In particular, we have worked with unionists from Cavite’s Rosario
Workers Association (RWA), the Philippine Airlines Employees Association
(PALEA), and Partido Manggagawa. PMAA’s most recent major activity was a threeday
training/workshop involving members of the ASETUC, a federation of unions in
South East Asia, and UNI Global Union, which includes members of Public Services
International (PSI) and the Building and Woodworkers International (BWI) (see
Some of PMAA’s media training materials and publications have been used by BWI
during independent media training initiatives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
PMAA-ASETUC media training. 29-31 July 2016, Manila, Philippines
A member of ASETUC receives a certificate of participation from PMAA’s Daniel Rudin
PMAA has also (1) helped workers produce a documentary on the killing of a labour
leader in Negros province, (2) partnered with University of the Philippines-Film
Institute students on a short film about wage theft in the franchise fast food sector,
and (3) has finished a documentary on union busting in the Citra Mina tuna fishing
industry in General Santos city (13).
In addition, PMAA hosts the Center for Peoples Media (CPM), a hub for labourrelated
news. As of August 2016, CPM has a Facebook page14 with over 24,000 likes
and an audience reach of up to 40,000. At the moment we are mostly a web-based
platform for the syndication of press releases, updates, and news stories from
coalition members of Nagkaisa. We also carry labour-related stories from the
With the contributions of the worker-journalists we have trained, we aim to
produce and host more of our own independent content – including stories,
podcasts, and films — in the future.
Screenshot from a PMAA-supported documentary produced by workers from the Citra Mina union.
General Santos City, Philippines
Audience and reach
Given PMAA’s distinctive news model, our niche market is the labour movement,
with social media as the primary delivery mechanism; a website will bridge its niche
and mainstream markets.
We work to build synergies between workers and unionists, mass communications
students, and professional newsmakers.
University of California Institute for Research in the Arts (UCIRA), University of
California Santa Cruz Blum Center have funded activities thus far. We are also
awaiting funding from the “Big Ideas@Berkeley” and are preparing to apply for
other grants such as the Wallace Global Fund, and are reaching out to the Rosa
Luxemburg Foundation (RLS), Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), and the Open Society
Unions within the Nagkaisa (UNITED) coalition have their own membership dues
and are therefore able to provide counterpart funding for PMAA “Labor Pulse”
training seminars. This counterpart is key to keeping costs down. PMAA is also
exploring other revenue-generating models, such as the rental of its own (donated)
equipment to independent Manila filmmakers and students.
1 This is available via Rudin’s personal blog: <http://www.danielrudin.com/workers-find-ways.html>. The series was also published by Rappler, an online news media outlet in the Philippines.
2 See Bibi van der zee, “The inside story of the Kentex disaster: ’74 workers died but no one is in prison’”, The Guardian, 20 July 2015, <https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/jul/20/the-inside-story-of-thekentex-disaster-74-workers-died-but-no-one-is-in-prison>
3 ILO Constitution, 1919
4 The Kentex fire claimed 74 workers in the manufacturing hub of Valenzuela city. Yet the factory had recently received a certificate of compliance.
5 Quimpo, Nathan. Contested Democracy and the Left in the Philippines After Marcos (Quezon City: Ateneo, 2008), 44.
6 Coincidentally, Valenzuela remains a political stronghold of the Gatchalians, close allies of the family
of the former Aquino administration. See Coronel, Shiela. The Rulemakers: How the Wealthy and
Well-Born Dominate Congress (Pasig City: Anvil, 2001), 55.
10 See <http://www.sentro.org/?cat=355>
11 Duterte won on a rather contradictory platform. He speaks out against contractualisation, for instance, even while human rights violations and extrajudicial killings of over 800 civilians – mostly targeting working class communities – have taken place since he came to power, in the name of the War on Drugs.
13 Some samples of our work are available via YouTube:
14 See < https://www.facebook.com/centerforpeoplesmedia/?fref=ts>
In the U.S. the University of California Santa Cruz, as well as the University of
California Institute for Research in the Arts, and the Santa Cruz Blum Center are
aware of PMAA’s activities. Also current and former members of the Communication
Workers of America and the International Longshore and Warehouse Workers
Union are familiar with PMAA activities. In the Philippines, the Nagkaisa (UNITED)
unions are partners in PMAA activities, and it is possible to conduct future trainings
with the Act to Win labour coalition (which includes Kilusang Mayo Uno). The IIRE
and the Labor, Education, and Research Network (LEARN), and the Friedrich-Ebert-
Stiftung are also aware of PMAA activities.
Professor, Film & Digital Meida
Spokesperson, Trade Union Congress of the Philippines part of the Nagkaisa
Spokesperson, Partido Manggagawa (part of the Nagkaisa Coalition)
Building and Woodworkers’ International (Cambodia)