Archive for May, 2008

There’s a battle outside ragin’: Unions take centre stage in the fight for democracy

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

For those of us who support the growth of democracy in the world, it almost goes without saying that we support workers’ rights and trade unions. But sometimes that support is only perfunctory.
After all, when we think about dictatorships in the world today and the struggle for democracy, we usually think of political and spiritual leaders, writers, intellectuals and others before we think of the workers. Aung San Suu Kyi and the Dalai Lama have become household names. For some of the larger and better known human rights organizations, workers’ rights have long been seen as a bit of a footnote — though there is some evidence that this is now changing.
While most of us will be vaguely familiar with key international human rights documents, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), most human rights campaigners will have difficulty naming the eight core conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO) which lay out what are universally recognized workers’ rights — such as the right to form and join a trade union and to bargain collectively.
Everyone remembers the central role played by independent trade unions in bringing down Communist rule in Poland and triggering the collapse of the entire Soviet empire in the process. But my guess is that few are aware of the key role being played by trade unions today — unions which find themselves on the front lines of what amounts to a fight to the death with dictatorships. Those dictatorships are often far more severe in their repression than the Polish Stalinists ever were.


Linux after one year

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

As I discovered entirely by accident, today marks the end of my first year using Linux.
When I began, I wrote a number of updates for my blog with titles like ‘Linux: the first nine days’ or ‘Day Eleven: The experiment continues’. I think I was amazed that it could go on like that, day after day.
There were probably two reasons for my own surprise at how well it has gone.
First, I’d had a bad experience using Linux in 2002. And second, I hardly knew anyone who used Linux on their desktops. (I still don’t know of a single trade union anywhere that has moved over to open source — unfortunately.)
After one year using Linux, I can say with confidence that I’m never going back to Windows.
Keep reading …


Ultra-portable laptops and the unions: A revolution in the making

Friday, May 9th, 2008

With gas prices soaring and food prices at a new high, this seems an odd time to raise the subject of things getting cheaper. But in one small corner of our consumer universe, one commodity that used to be owned only by very rich has suddenly, almost overnight, become very cheap indeed.
I’m speaking about ultra-portable, ultra-light laptop computers.
A year ago, if you wanted to buy a truly portable computer, you’d be looking at a Sony Vaio, for example, weighing in at a couple of pounds. And it would have cost you something like $3,000. Even Apple’s latest laptop, the MacBook Air, costs $1,800 in its cheapest configuration.
But in the last six months a new breed of tiny, powerful laptops has become available for $400.
A 90% drop in the price of a tool that can be so useful to unions is something that should make us sit up and take notice.


Obama-Edwards: A winning ticket

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

It’s the morning after the Indiana and North Carolina primaries. It now seems pretty clear to everyone that Barack Obama is going to be the Democratic nominee for President. The question now is — what can we do to ensure that he defeats John McCain in November. And not only defeats McCain, but defeats him decisively.
We need more than a Democratic victory in November — we need a landslide. We need huge Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. We can only achieve that if we have the kind of unbeatable team at the top that unites the party and the nation.
It’s obvious that Hillary Clinton is not going to be Obama’s running mate. Obama has to choose from among many outstanding Democrats, including some who ran against him in the early primaries, to find a great Vice Presidential choice. But one man stands head and shoulders above all the others as the obvious choice: John Edwards.
John Edwards set the agenda for all the candidates in the early stages of the primary battles. He came up with the first and best comprehensive health care plan. He raised the issue of poverty as no leading politician has done for 40 years. His charisma, his abilities and his appeal to those voters Obama must win in November are beyond dispute.
An Obama-Edwards ticket in November is the Democratic party’s best chance of winning a resounding victory. If you agree, please visit and sign the form there. (That address will soon be
We’ll make sure that Obama gets this message loud and clear from the many Democrats who we’re sure agree with us.