Archive for April, 2007

Workers rights and online campaigns: Why the unions must set their own agenda

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

I have been helping organize online campaigns in support of workers’ rights for several years now. The latest campaign I’m helping with concerns Zimbabwe. It supports a call by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions demanding that President Robert Mugabe respect workers rights.
Very few of the campaigns that I have been involved in may be considered controversial – at least they are not usually controversial within the labour movement. When you attack a company like Wal-Mart, everyone on the left has only nice things to say about you.
But campaigns like the Zimbabwe one, and ones we have done in support of trade unionists in Eritrea and Belarus, have generated their fair share of critical comment.
More critical comments have come in about Zimbabwe than any other recent campaign – and despite these, it is still one of the largest and most successful online campaigns I’ve been involved in. There is only a tiny minority of activists who have an issue with this sort of campaign and this, more or less, is what they say:
Robert Mugabe, for better or worse, has made enemies of George Bush and Tony Blair. If they and their stooges in the media (CNN and Fox News) say Mugabe is a dictator, therefore Mugabe must be a pretty good guy. Any anyway, didn’t he do some kind of land reform?


Private equity, unions and the web

Monday, April 2nd, 2007

The issue of private equity has suddenly burst onto the trade union scene, almost out of nowhere. In the last few weeks, the GMB and other unions have picketed, demonstrated, issued press releases and campaigned to raise public awareness of the problem. And media attention has not been lacking either. The prospect of giant companies (and major employers) such as Alliance Boots or Sainsburys being taken over by shadowy private firms with reputations as asset strippers has not gone unnoticed in the mainstream media.