Online organizing

Unions that want to recruit new members will make it as easy as possible to join. In this century, that means allowing people to join unions online.

There have already been a number of examples of unions in other countries — such as the New South Wales Teachers Federation — recruiting online. But British unions, for the most part, have generally told visitors to their websites that the best they can offer is to allow potential members to request application forms, which are sent out by post and returned to the union by post.
Some unions — such as the NUT — have long allowed non-paying members (students, for example) to join online, but have insisted that recruiting actual working, dues-paying members does require a paper form sent in by post.
The problem is that even those who send in a request to receive an application form often do not return completed forms. One major British union discovered a couple of years ago that more than 50% of those who requested application forms did not fill them in and return them to the union.
Meanwhile, organisations like Amnesty International and the Labour Party have long allowed individuals to join online, not requiring signatures nor paper.
Unions often claim that there are complicating factors, such as legal requirements, the right of branches to vet potential members, and the payment of dues, but none of these seems to have stood in the way of one British union which now does recruit online.
That union is Connect. The Connect website ( has a very prominent link labelled “Join online” on top of its home page. (Other unions use more obscure ones such as “Membership” or “Organising” — how many non-members will understand that clicking on “Organising” is how one joins a union?)
The process for joining Connect online is as straightforward as, for example, buying a book at One is taken to a secure web server where credit card details are encrypted. There are four steps to the joining process, each of which is clearly labelled. The third stage allows new members to choose how they wish to pay, the choices being monthly or annual direct debit.
Connect is rightly proud to be the first union in the UK to recruit online. Clearly whatever legal or technical obstacles seem to be blocking other UK unions from following suit have been overcome. If Connect can do this, I wonder why other unions in this country haven’t done so yet.

7 Comments on "Online organizing"

  1. We need more unions world wide. Unions help people and goverments be stronger.

  2. Derek Blackadder | 11/08/2005 at 12:21 |

    While the technology exists, there’s often a disconnect with the ways in which unions recruit (or ‘organize’ in the North American sense). And the legal context plays a role too.
    Here (Canada), unions with a few tenuous exceptions, see organizing as a political process resulting in a legal process. You organize people in order to apply to a government tribunal for ‘certification’ as a trade union representing the workers in a particular workplace. And to my knowledge nowhere is it possible to apply for certification online or using anything other than paper evidence with a signature on it somewhere.
    Previous attempts at organizing workers outside that legal context have, since the 1940’s anyway, been short-lived and fairly tenuous.
    Technology like this hasn’t attracted a lot of attention here, so far as I can tell, and I do have my reservations about the extent to which an essentially political commitment and one often subject to employer and peer anti-union pressures can survive if obtained in this way (see ). But what would be very exciting to see is an effort directed at integrating this technology and online organizing into a comprehensive approach (outside the propellerhead industries I mean!).

  3. Derek Blackadder | 11/08/2005 at 12:53 |

    I should have been a tad clearer: there’s widespread use of the internet to obtain the contact info needed to get a signature on a card here, either in a ‘drop-in’ sense as at
    or in a more focussed, campaign-specific way, for example at:

  4. Laurence Humphries | 11/08/2005 at 14:01 |

    I agree with Eric Lee that Online campaigning is fundamental in recruiting new Members we must use the new Global Technology to recruit Workers in their fight against global Capitalism , Many unions dont recruit online ion Britain and this is a backward step the Worlwide web is for everyone to use and by unifying Global techniques this will mean that we will be able to onflict more defeats on the Global Capitalists Keep up the good work.
    Fraternally Yours Laurence Humphries GMB Britain

  5. Prospect also allows members to join online. The new system has recently been launched, so it’s not only Connect anymore in the UK.
    It really is important that members can join online, and it’s something we’ve been working on for a while, so I’m pleased to say we’ve got their too. If any other Unions want advice, please get in contact. There’s quite a few lessons to learn as we set it up, but it is quite achievable.

  6. Why can’t a World Union for People by the People be organized through the internet?
    This would be a powerful new source to put extream pressure on all the Gready Corporations and Dictator countries.
    Just think 2,000,000,000+ people around the world who would buy nothing no gas products, no food, for 4-5 days zilch, zip, a world wide boycott,
    Many reprocushions.

  7. Ron Stockton | 20/08/2005 at 02:10 |

    As Derek Blackadder noted earlier, there seems to be no legal means of accepting membership over the internet if the intent is to use that membership to apply for certification to represent workers at a workplace. In some Canadian jurisdictions (we have 10 provinces and a federal government that all have certification authority for different groups of workers) it is a mine field trying to get a certification past a government [anti-]certification authority when you have all the paper and witnesses to boot.
    However it is done, certification for workers should be made easier.
    For information about organizing and certifications in Nova Scotia, you can go to Like Derek’s union, NSUPE also uses the inernet to make initial contacts but then the leg work has to start.

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