I always ask unions to tell us what effect our campaign had on the ground. I don’t always get answers and when I do, they’re often quite … brief. But the KMU in the Philippines, which we have supported a number of times with campaigns, has sent us a report on the most recent one and have agreed for me to share it with all of you. It makes for interesting reading.
LabourStart campaign in the Philippines: Summary
The struggle against the systematic attacks on the Philippine trade-union movement continues. One of the most prominent recent forms of these attacks is the filing of trumped-up charges against four leaders of the Kilusang Mayo Uno.
The campaign activities against this attack include giving radio interviews, sending of petition letters to judges, and holding forum in unions and community organizations. The campaign kicked off with the online petition hosted by Labourstart.
The impacts of the LabourStart campaign:
(1) It helped us spread, locally and abroad, the news about the latest attack on workers’ rights in the Philippines.
(2) Locally, it served as part of the activities calling against trade-union repression.
(3) In teaching workers on how to sign up to Labourstart, we were able to give the union members and the general public an idea about attacks on workers’ rights in different countries. In explaining the Labourstart campaign, we also gave a background on the global financial crisis, how it is affecting workers, and how workers are mounting different protests to counter the attacks.
(4) We were able to teach workers the importance of utilizing and maximizing social media in launching campaigns.
The 4,451 signatures mean a lot of support for the accused KMU leaders and for the rest of KMU. Many workers were surprised to know the number of signatures that can be gathered.
We encountered some difficulty in holding the online campaign. At first, we relied on sending text messages to union members and friendly organizations, as well as on forwarding the petition via email. In the Philippines, this yielded just a few signatures, mostly of leaders of unions, federations and workers’ institutions.
We then set-up a workers’ committee to help gather more signatures. The committee set up a sign-up booth in different workers’ forum and actions before Labor Day. We explained what LabourStart is and how to sign-up online. This is a positive initiative given that most workers still don’t have email addresses.
So the weaknesses are: (1) Not knowing union members’ use of the Internet – how frequent, through what sites, etc. (2) Relying on electronic means at first in trying to spread awareness about the petition, and (3) Late attempt to overcome the previous weaknesses by coming out with a manifesto.
We learned that if we are going to hold online campaigns again, these should be coupled with actual legwork and face-to-face information drives.