This article appeared as the Global Labour Column on 10 January 2012. Post any comments you may have there.
In November 2011, the military dictatorship in Fiji jailed two of the country’s most prominent trade union leaders. Following the launch of an online campaign sponsored by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and run on the LabourStart website, some 4,000 messages of protest were sent in less than 24 hours. The government relented, the union leaders were freed, and the campaign suspended. A month earlier, Suzuki workers locked out in India waged a successful online campaign through the International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) and LabourStart. Almost 7,000 messages flooded the company’s inboxes, and after only a few days, a compromise was reached.
The spectacular success of those campaigns is the culmination of a decade-long process of building up the campaigning capacity of the international trade union movement – specifically that of the ITUC and the global union federations (like the IMF), and the role played by LabourStart in that process.
This short essay will focus on the rather narrow topic of global online labour campaigning, to see where we have been, where we are now, and to speculate where we go next. Continue reading