To some, Julien Blanc is an enviable figure — the Swiss-born self-styled pickup artist roaming the world dispensing high-priced advice on how to meet and seduce women.
But after watching some of his promotional videos, Jennifer Li, the native New Yorker recently hired as Local 21’s Communications Specialist, was quickly convinced Blanc was a predator who needed to be stopped.
In some of his videos, Blanc physically abused women. In others, he chirped that Asian women were passive and embraced aggressive male behavior.
To help take down the pickup poster boy, Li launched the “Take Down Julien Blanc Campaign” in November, 2014. The online effort generated a petition that collected 53,000 signatures and nearly 100,000 tweets. The movement led to Blanc being denied visas in six countries and deportation from Australia.
And that was all done in Li’s spare time. Her main gig at the time was working as the Digital Communications Specialist for AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) in Washington, D.C. Before that, the Smith College graduate was the Online Political Coordinator for the AFGE (American Federation of Government Employees).
At both unions, Li unfurled online campaigns that attracted thousands of views and added Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media to labor’s traditional outreach toolbox.
And to attract a younger crowd, she spoke in terms they could understand.
“A lot of my friends don’t understand labor unions, but they talk to me about workplace harassment, not getting paid, getting paid less than they should,” Li said. “I have friends who are permanent temps or constantly interning. There are a lot of issues plaguing our workplaces that labor (unions) can solve.”
Li grew up working in her parents’ butcher shop in New York City’s Chinatown. She started working in Washington during her junior year at college– both as communications intern in a Congressional committee, and as a legislative intern authoring memos on a wide range of legislation.
At Local 21, her job is to upgrade the union’s social media profile and assist in traditional communications in general.