LabourStart in Numbers – December 2016-February 2017

Please note that this report covers a three month period – the last report covered six months. The first number is the current total, the second one is our previous total.

We’ve added 14 smaller languages in addition to the top 20 this time. Four of these have over 100 subscribers.

Mailing lists

English: 86,871- 86,697
French: 9,032- 8,929
German: 6,252 – 5,997
Spanish: 5,527 – 5,525
Turkish: 4,248 – 4,314
Korean: 4,171 – 4,170
Italian: 3,983 – 4,021
Norwegian: 2,772 – 2,681
Russian: 2,564 – 2,444
Dutch: 1,707 – 1,720

Swedish: 1,243 – 1,242
Chinese: 1,077 – 1,112
Portuguese: 848 – 647
Polish: 798 – 798
Finnish: 643 – 638
Japanese: 518 – 518
Arabic: 509 – 418
Indonesian: 346 – 346
Hebrew: 280 – 284
Tagalog: 254 – 254
Farsi: 232 – 231

Esperanto: 155
Hungarian: 149
Ukrainian: 138
Danish: 102
Czech: 81
Thai: 67
Greek: 58
Hindi: 41
Romanian: 41
Slovakian: 20
Bulgarian: 18
Vietnamese: 13
Creole: 12
Sinhalese: 1

Facebook:

Like LabourStart.org page (English): 12,112 – 11,990
Members of LabourStart group: 8,416 – 8,388
Friends of LabourStart Brasil: 3,406 – 3,232
Like LabourStart page (French): 553 – 551
Like LabourStart page (German): 485 – 478
Like LabourStart page (Turkish): 181- 177
Like LabourStart page (Hebrew): 158 – 155
Members of LabourStart Vostok (Russian): 90 – 89

Twitter

English: 17,229 – 16,922
Canada English: 6,638 – 6,404
Canada French: 1,726 – 1,633
USA: 662- 639
Italian: 492 – 475
Swedish: 376- 374
Indonesia: 366 – 365
French: 230 – 225
Portuguese: 223 – 191
German: 94 – 92
Spanish: 70 – 71
Japanese: 21 – 21
Russian: 18 – 18

Website traffic

LabourStart.org (news)

Unique users 42,120 – 41,506

Top countries (by sessions):

USA 20% – 23%
Canada 15% – 14%
UK 16% – 15%
India 5% – 6%
Australia 5% – 5%

Most popular pages – page views:

Home page – English 26,770 – 51,618
USA – English 7,630 – 21,045
Canada – English 5,354- 10,210
India 5,097 – 11,069
Home page – Norwegian 2,175- 4,091

LabourStartCampaigns.net (campaigns)

Unique users 43,979 – 56,270

Top countries (by sessions):

UK 18% – 15%
USA 13% – 13%
Canada 11% – 9%
Germany 7% – 5%
Belgium 4% – 5%

Most popular pages – page views:

Kazakhstan: Save the independent trade union centre from forced dissolution – 11,977
Bangladesh: Release arrested garment union leaders now! – 11,667
Yemen: DNO must pay its workers – 9,480
Nigeria: Government must intervene to support sacked dockworkers – 7,179
Hungary: Public sector union leaders sacked in unprecedented attack – 7,063

Linked In

LabourStart group: 2,052 – 2,044

Flickr

Union group on Flickr: 825- 821

Website

Correspondents: 856 – 845

Online campaigns: Unions must be open to new ideas and new ways of working

Presentation to ILO event ” Communication Strategies to Strengthen Workers’ Organizations: Advocacy and Campaigns”, Geneva – 7 February 2017

by Eric Lee

First of all, thank you very much to ACTRAV for the opportunity to speak with trade unionists from all over the world. And thank you for letting me hear some of your thoughts in the questionnaires you filled in – which I hope will guide some of this discussion today.

Though I’ve been invited to speak for the session on advocacy and campaigns, I’d like to say a word about an issue a number of you raised in your answers to the questionnaire.

Many of you pointed out the problem of mass media that either ignore trade unions, or are hostile to trade unions. This is a subject that is very important to me and it is the reason why LabourStart was created 19 years ago. We wanted to create a space on the web where trade unionists could learn about each others’ struggles and problems – and victories. And we created a news service that works in dozens of languages. We have a network of over 850 volunteers who regularly add links to news stories to our database. We typically link to 200 or more news stories every day, all over the world. So if you want to know what’s happening in the labour movement anywhere in the world, you should start by visiting LabourStart.org. And if you don’t see news from your union or your country there, you should volunteer to be a correspondent.

I should also mention that you don’t need to visit LabourStart’s website to see the news we’ve collected. We have had a labour newswire for many years which shares our content on hundreds of trade union websites.

But as the focus of this session is on advocacy and campaigns, I want to introduce you to LabourStart’s online campaigns.

Let me start not with the technology, but with the real world. The only reason I am here today to speak with you is that we have had many success stories where our online campaigns have contributed to workers’ victories. Those online campaigns have helped get jailed worker activists released from prison, end company lockouts, bring employers back to the negotiating table, win union recognition, and much more.

About five years ago, the military dictatorship in Fiji jailed two of the country’s most prominent trade union leaders. Following the launch of an online campaign sponsored by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and run on the LabourStart website, some 4,000 messages of protest were sent in less than 24 hours. The government relented, the union leaders were freed, and the campaign suspended.

A month earlier, Suzuki workers locked out in India waged a successful online campaign through the International Metalworkers Federation – now IndustriALL – and LabourStart. Almost 7,000 messages flooded the company’s inboxes, and after only a few days, a compromise was reached.

We’ve had so many victories like those that a couple of years ago, we produced a short book called Campaigning Online and Winning. We’ve now finished writing a new version of that book – it’s much longer – listing lots of other campaigns we’ve helped to win. That book should be available later this month.

The spectacular success of those campaigns is the culmination of a 20 year long process of building up the campaigning capacity of the international trade union movement – specifically that of the ITUC and the global union federations (including IndustriALL, the IUF, and others), and the role played by LabourStart in that process.

My talk today will focus on the rather narrow topic of global online labour campaigns, to see where we have been, where we are now, and to speculate where we go next.

The global labour movement has been doing online campaigning for more than thirty years. The first international trade secretariats (now called global union federations) went online in the 1980s and have been campaigning ever since. For more than a decade, we have campaigned using a combination of mass emailings and web-based tools mostly modelled on successful campaigning websites such as Avaaz and 38 Degrees (in the UK).

Today the ITUC and the GUFs tend to campaign either using LabourStart, or using a system similar to (and based on) LabourStart’s custom-built software. As a result of this, LabourStart’s mailing lists have grown steadily, from just a couple of thousand at the beginning of this century to more than 135,000 today. Those mailing lists of trade union activists are at the heart of online labour campaigning today. They are what allow us to deliver thousands of protest messages in 24 hours.

But the potential is much greater than this. The ITUC, for example, represents 181 million workers in 163 countries. The 135,000 names of activists on LabourStart’s lists are a tiny fraction of that number – less than one in a thousand. 99.9% of the members of ITUC-affiliated unions are not yet on our mailing list. There is a lot of room for growth.

Other campaigning organizations, which have grown up out of nowhere with no built-in membership base like trade unions, have much larger audiences. For example, Avaaz claims over 44 million supporters world-wide; the UK’s 38 Degrees website claims 3 million supporters. Unions have been slow to pick up on the importance of online campaigning, and as a result lag behind NGOs like these.

And it’s not only NGOs. Political campaigns have also managed to mobilise vast numbers of people. I was very active in the campaign last year to select Senator Bernie Sanders to be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. The size our our campaign, the number of people involved, was far greater than anything I’ve seen done by the trade union movement online.

Why unions lag behind in the adoption of effective online campaigning technology is complicated, and varies from union to union and from country to country. As the widespread use of social networks like Facebook during the Arab Spring showed, there is no simple North/South divide here. Some of the most powerful unions in some of the richest countries use the net poorly. And there have been extremely effective net-based campaigns run by unions in the global South.

The global trade union movement is already experiencing the problems of campaign fatigue and information overload. There is a fear that the campaigning model which has worked well for a decade may be faltering. And there are questions about what comes next.

I want to spend the rest of my talk focussing on that – on the future of online campaigning in the trade union movement.

One noticeable trend is a growth in the number of languages we campaign in. LabourStart has a new campaign demanding that the Norwegian energy company DNO treat its workers in Yemen fairly. That campaign appears, of course, in English, Norwegian and Arabic. But it also appears in 12 other languages too.

This is far cry from the days when unions would publish online in just English, French and Spanish. LabourStart campaigns now appear in Turkish, Arabic, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese – hugely important languages for the international trade union movement, but ones which a decade ago were rarely seen on global labour websites.

We can expect in the next decade to see even more languages used — especially the languages of countries with growing industrial working classes, such as Thai, Tagalog, Korean, Portuguese, Indonesian and Vietnamese. A decade from now, it will not be unusual to see online campaigns running in dozens of languages.

The model for today’s global online labour campaigns remains very PC-centric. We imagine thousands of trade unionists working in offices, sitting at their desks reading an email, clicking on a link, opening a website and filling in a form. But already today, this is not how people actually work.

A significant percentage of those now learning about a global labour campaign via email are reading that email in a smartphone. If they click on a link in the message, the website that displays must render correctly on a small screen, and the entering of data such as one’s name and email address, must be as simple and easy as possible. Few unions have taken this into account, but it will be essential in the years to come. As a result, it is likely that we will see the rise of small-screen-specific campaigning apps for trade unions. These apps will need to be platform-independent, able to work on all kinds of phones and tablets.

And of course the model of email messages pointing to websites is itself fading, as more and more people come to use social networks such as Twitter and Facebook as their models for online communication. Among young people, studies show a declining use of email and an increasing reliance on other tools, including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Snapchat.

Unions need to take this into account when deciding how to promote their campaigns, and they need to use simultaneously a wide range of media — including social networks and instant messaging — to reach their members and supporters. Email is likely to remain part of that package, but can no longer be the only way to get the word out.

A decade from now we will probably discover other things online protest campaigns can do beyond filling up the inbox of employers and governments with protest messages. It’s likely that we’ll continue to do that, but we also need to find other ways of putting pressure on governments and employers to respect workers’ rights.

One of the traditional trade union tools that has been under-utilised in recent years has been the boycott — and its opposite, the “buy union” campaigns. Both can be done more effectively online and at a fraction of the cost of old-fashioned offline versions. In a hyper-competitive market, if unions can cause a tiny fraction of sales to fall for one company, and to rise for another, this might give us the leverage that we never had in the past.

And beyond using our power as consumers to reward and punish companies, we can be inspired by the example of the Arab Spring, Occupy and other movements and consider the possibility of using online campaigns not only to apply pressure online, but as a tool to bring people into the streets.

In the years to come global unions will still campaign online, but they will do so in ways radically different from how we work today — and the result will be more powerful and effective trade unions. But to achieve that, we must be open to new ideas, and new ways of working.

Brazil: Our first campaign launched as outreach to unions continues

Euan Gibb, LabourStart’s coordinator (pictured on the left) just sent this in:

LabourStart Brasil continues with its slow and steady growth. An important part of the national growth strategy has been presence at events. LabourStart was invited to present on the first day of a three-day national conference for trade union communicators in the city of São Paulo. The event was organized by the national union central CSP-Conlutas. A brief history of some of LabourStart´s successes over the years were presented and an invite to get involved in our campaigns, as correspondents and as translators was extended. Less than one week after participation in this conference, LabourStart Brasil received its first request for a Brazilian campaign!

The president of the country’s largest public university, the University of São Paulo has openly declared that he wants a union-free campus. As part of his project to realize to transform the school into a neoliberal university, the president is currently attempting to evict the union that represents the staff at the university. The administration invited military police armed with automatic rifles onto the campus in order to close the union offices with a large fence. Let’s show the Brazilian trade unionists how much support they have from around the world. Please be sure to sign the campaign yourself, translate this campaign into your local language, and help to share the campaign as widely as possible!

One of our fastest campaign victories

Derek Blackadder writes: “In December of 2016 the government of the Canadian Province of Nova Scotia gave two days’ notice of its intention to bar tens of thousands of students from its schools in an effort to put pressure on the teachers union.  It also gave notice of the introduction of a bill to legislate larger class sizes and longer hours of work on the teachers, drastically affecting the quality of education.  In co-operation with the Nova scotia Teachers Union and the Canadian Teachers Federation a LabourStart campaign was assembled and in less than 2 hours almost 1,000 Canadians sent protest messages to the province’s Premier.  In combination with the NSTU’s meatspace actions the campaign was an important consideration in the government’s decision to open the schools after one day and to re-consider over-riding the teachers’ collective agreement.”

“Whatever it takes. Whatever you need. We are with you.”

Deliveroo worker and union leader – victimised for helping to organise workers.

Last night, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) had a public meeting in central London with Deliveroo workers and other couriers.  

LabourStart co-sponsored the well-attended meeting, and editor Eric Lee was one of the speakers.  

Here is what he said:

My name is Eric Lee and I am the editor of the LabourStart website.

LabourStart is the news and campaigning website of the international trade union movement.

We do a lot of online campaigns in support of trade union rights around the world. Those campaigns are brought to us by our partners in the international trade union movement, including the global union federations, the International Trade Union Confederation, and national and local unions in many countries.

Over 135,000 trade unionists are part of our network who are mobilised when needed to support workers who are fighting for their basic human rights, for the right to join and form trade unions.

Right now, we are running campaigns at the request of unions in support of jailed trade unionists in Iran, Egypt, South Korea and Turkey; we are fighting against attempts to outlaw independent trade unions in Kazakhstan and demanding the rehiring of sacked trade union leaders in Liberia.

The fight for the right to join and form trade unions is a massive, world-wide fight. In many countries, workers do not have the possibility to join and form trade unions.

This is the case even though all workers, in all countries, have the legal right to unions because all countries are bound by the conventions of the International Labor Organisation, a United Nations body. Those conventions specifically give workers the rights to trade unions and every government in the world is obligated to uphold those rights.

Today many unions in many different countries are engaged in a fight against precarious work, and in support of regularised employment for workers. We have supported workers on this issue on many occasions, in different countries.

The struggle of Deliveroo workers here in London combines both of these issues — the right to have a trade union, and the fight against precarious work.

The so-called “gig economy” is a new way of describing an exploitative system where workers have no rights.

Where workers are poorly paid.

Where things like sick days and holidays do not exist.

Where workers can be sacked on a whim by their employer.

Where workers are treated with disrespect by their bosses.

We thought that here in the UK, we had moved beyond this. We have a proud history of trade unionism, have millions of members in powerful unions, and have won many victories over the decades.

But all that is under threat today. Even though we’re not in the situation faced by workers in Iran, where workers cannot join or form independent unions, or Turkey or South Korea where unions are struggling with repressive, anti-worker governments, we are also not where we want to be.

Trade unions in the UK have faced a historic decline, over many years.

They are a fraction of their former size. They wield much less power and influence than they did in the past. They struggle to organise new members, especially in the “gig economy”.

This is why the struggle at Deliveroo here in London is so important.

The workers at Deliveroo are not going to get decent pay, better working conditions, job security or respect at work just by asking for it.

They won’t get it with online petitions or sympathetic articles appearing in the Guardian.

They’ll win those things only when they have a powerful trade union in their workplace.

That is why I support the work being done here by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain.

You have taken on the difficult task of helping to bring a trade union to Deliveroo.

I am confident that you will win, and that Deliveroo workers will someday soon enjoy the benefits of a collective bargaining agreement.

Until that happens, we at LabourStart, and I’m sure many other trade unionists, are ready to do all that we can help — by spreading the word, by supporting meetings like this one, by helping to raise money.

Whatever it takes. Whatever you need. We are with you.

Solidarity forever!

We publish our first book since 2014 – and it’s a great one

We’re reviving our publications programme with four new books in the pipeline, and that will just take us through the winter.  This is an ambitious plan and we’re starting off with a great one, with huge potential interest from the labour movement and others.

The first book of this new season is The Strangers Among Us: Tales from a Global Migrant Workers Movement, edited by Joseph B. Atkins.  This 136 page book offers readers compelling insight from 10 writers around the world (including LabourStart’s Eric Lee) about migrant workers’ rising consciousness of their rights and ability to assert those rights in a global economy that seems to place all power in the hands of mega-corporations. From tobacco workers in North Carolina to Vietnamese domestic workers in Taiwan and the network of organizations that support them, a movement is emerging that will pose a growing challenge to neoliberal rule.  The book costs just $9.99 and is available from Amazon and most bookshops.

Order your copies here: http://www.labourstart.org/go/strangers  And please – post reviews of the book on Amazon and elsewhere.

Spread the word!

LabourStart in Numbers – June – December 2016

Some highlights:

* Note that this report covers a six month period as we missed our September report.
* Good news on traffic to the website – very big gains in traffic to both the news and campaigns sites. Over 61,000 unique visitors to news site was a gain of nearly 50% compared to the first half of the year.There was an even bigger gain for the campaigns site.
* There’s been a very significant growth in interest in our news site in India.
* While most of the mailing lists either stayed the same size or shrunk, the Portuguese language list stands out for having grown by 36% in the last half year. Also our Brasilian presence on Facebook has shown enormous growth.
* Once again, the Canadian Twitter feeds in English and French have grown dramatically, while the USA Twitter following remains quite small.
* Of the five top campaigns in this half year, two came from the International Federation of Journalists (our first campaigns ever with the IFJ) and three of the five are currently active campaigns.

Mailing lists

English: 86,697 – 88,242
French: 8,929 – 8,791
German: 5,997 – 6,021
Spanish: 5,525 – 5,531
Turkish: 4,314 – 4,268
Korean: 4,170 – 3,965
Italian: 4,021 – 4,044
Norwegian: 2,681 – 2,701
Russian: 2,444 – 2,449
Dutch: 1,720 – 1,774

Swedish: 1,242 – 1,235
Chinese: 1,112 – 1,112
Polish: 798 – 798
Portuguese: 647 – 475
Finnish: 638 – 687
Japanese: 518 – 518
Arabic: 418 – 478
Indonesian: 346 – 346
Hebrew: 284 – 296
Tagalog: 254 – 254
Farsi: 231 – 242

UnionBook

UnionBook was closed in 2016.

Linked In

LabourStart group: 2,044 – 2,012

Flickr

Union group on Flickr: 821 – 806

Website

Correspondents: 845 – 826

LabourStart.org (news)

Unique users – 61,279 – 41,506

Top countries (by sessions):

USA 23% – 23%
Canada 14% – 15%
UK 13% – 12%
India – 6%
Australia 5% – 5%

Most popular pages – page views:

Home page – English 51,618 – 34,337
USA – English 21,045 – 8,294
Canada – English 10,210 – 6,297
India – 11,069 – 1,807
Home page – Norwegian 4,091 – 2,746

LabourStartCampaigns.net (campaigns)

Unique users – 56,270 – 37,851

Top countries (by sessions):

UK 15% – 16%
USA 13% – 14%
Canada 9% – 10%
Germany 5% – 7%
Belgium 5%

Most popular pages – page views:

South Korea: Release jailed trade unionists, respect workers’ rights – 8,969
Iran: Freedom for teacher union leader Esmail Abdi – 8,940
Korea: Don’t let Han’s death be in vain – 8,659
Turkey: Press freedom is essential for democracy, set journalism free! – 8,651
AFP: Demand fair terms for freelance photographers – 8,153

Twitter

English: 16,922 – 16,188
Canada English: 6,404 – 5,661
Canada French: 1,633 – 1,071
USA: 639 – 608
Italian: 475 – 458
Indonesia: 365 – 368
Swedish: 374 – 356
French: 230 – 225
Portuguese: 191 – 92
German: 92 – 91
Spanish: 71 – 73
Japanese: 21 – 22
Russian: 18 – 18

Facebook

Like LabourStart.org page (English): 11,990 – 10,528
Members of LabourStart group: 8,388 – 8,521
Friends of LabourStart Brasil: 3,232 – 1,681
Like LabourStart page (French): 551 – 535
Like LabourStart page (German): 478 – 472
Like LabourStart page (Turkish): 177 – 175
Like LabourStart page (Hebrew): 155 – 155
Members of LabourStart Vostok (Russian): 89 – 109

Esmail Abdi’s long struggle for justice

esmailEsmail Abdi, a leading Iranian teacher trade unionist, was the subject of two LabourStart campaigns in the last year, the first one after he was blocked from attending a congress of the Education International (EI) in Canada.

This week we’ve launched a third campaign at the request of the EI now that he’s been sentenced to 6 years in prison.

Here are the results of those campaigns:

  • July 2015: 12,698
  • February 2016: 6,307
  • November 2016 (so far): 4,367

Please take a moment to spread news of this campaign in your country and to your unions — especially teachers unions.  Thanks.

Meet our new interns

Meet John and Eda.
Meet John and Eda.

LabourStart has hired two new interns.  I asked them to say a few words about themselves.

Edanur Yazici:

“I’m very excited to be joining the LabourStart team. I have been an active member of a small union, the IWW for some time and I am currently serving as a local branch officer. I look forward to be able to put the skills I have gained there to good use at LabourStart. My academic background is in Politics and I have a fair bit of experience in various grassroots campaigning organisations and movements.”

John Millington:

“I am proud to be working with LabourStart. I am a former national newspaper journalist, health campaigner and currently a union activist. I am looking forward to using my skills and seven years experience to promote workers’ rights throughout the world.”