Archive for February, 2005

ILO Core Conventions. the web, and global trade union organizing

Thursday, February 17th, 2005

Back in the 1930s, CIO organizers in the American South would go to factory gates and hand out leaflets with pictures of President Roosevelt, decorated with the national flag. And the leaflets would proclaim in a very large type: “You have the right to join a union.”
At the time, the right to join a union, particularly in the South, existed on paper only. The newly-enacted National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) did guarantee the right to form and join unions, but in parts of the country where racial segregation was still practiced, and where the Ku Klux Klan waged a campaign of terror, the NLRA was little more than a scrap of paper.
Nevertheless, it was a very important organizing tool for the rapidly growing CIO unions. It told workers that they had a legal right to join a union. The law, which for so long had been used to suppress unions, seemed to finally be on their side.
The world today is a little bit like the 1930s in this sense: There is a law which guarantees workers the right to join and form trade unions — everywhere in the world. That law consists primarily of the eight “core conventions” of the International Labour Organization.


Report on TUC Iraq Solidarity conference

Monday, February 14th, 2005

Approximately 70 trade unionists from Britain and Iraq attended an all-day conference organized by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), held in its headquarters in London.


Programming as an activist skill

Wednesday, February 9th, 2005

Long before there was LabourStart, long before unions were using the Internet, I was a computer programmer. I worked in a worker-owned and democratically-run wire and cable factory, and my job was to maintain the computerized information systems. I learned to program in a language called RPG which was used on IBM computers.
The skills I learned then have proven to be of great use to me now, as an Internet activist working with unions around the world. I think the time has come for unions to begin to understand that programmers can play a vital role in our organizing and communications strategies.
These days I no longer program in RPG and haven’t seen an IBM mini-computer for years. Most of my programming these days is done in a language called Perl, which is one of the two or three most popular languages for writing Web-based applications.
Many trade union webmasters have learned HTML, which is the language that web pages are written in, and many have learned how to use tools like DreamWeaver or FrontPage to write the HTML for them, but very few have learned a proper programming language.
Why should they?


Menshevism in Iraq

Friday, February 4th, 2005

Having now completed reading the third in Sean Matgamna’s series on Iraq, I want to return to a point he makes several times in the first of the series, the one published in early December in Solidarity.
In attempting to distinguish the views of the AWL from those of Labour Friends of Iraq (LFIQ), Sean makes use on several occasions of the word “Menshevik

Podcasting: Are unions ready for this?

Friday, February 4th, 2005

Unions tend to be fairly conservative, particularly when it comes to technology. They are not known as “early adopters”. And that means that sometimes, while they wait for certain technologies to come down in price, or become easier to use, new technologies appear. One example of this is the use of sound in union websites. Very few union websites make any use of the fact that the vast majority of their members have computers with sound cards and speakers.