The month in review: September 2014

Things picked up in September even though August was hardly a quiet month for us.

Office: LabourStart is now firmly planted in Muswell Hill as I learn to once again work from home (with some days working in the British Library).

Finances: Our finances have improved a bit this month. We have received a substantial contribution from Fafo in Norway, from the FDHT in Geneva and also many individual donations raised on behalf of Kevin Curran’s marathon run for LabourStart in October ($1,894 so far from 67 contributors). The promotion of Fastmail as a Gmail alternative on 19 September has generated very little income for us. Unison’s National Executive is due to consider a proposal to make a donation to us this month.

Campaigns: We launched five new campaigns in September:

  • Canada: Nova Scotia labor law
  • Turkey: Union busting at Deva Holdings
  • Colombia: Ruben Montoya
  • USA: IKEA – play fair with workers
  • Colombia: Luis Cardenas / Prosegur

We have been able to announce a victory at Autogrill (Germany) and will soon be able to announce another from the Philippines at NXP. We closed the Swaziland campaign after hearing that the Prime Minister has decided not to strangle trade union leaders. I also closed campaigns in Turkey and Korea after three months; the unions have not gotten back to us with updates.

In addition to promoting our own campaigns, we have helped the following organizations with promotions of their campaigns which we do not host: Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, Australian Council of Trade Unions, IUF, IndustriALL (Thunderclap) and BWI. Most other campaigning organizations will generally not do dedicated mailings to promote other organizations’ campaigns, but we do this regularly.

All our campaigns are now also in Swedish, and this is what now shows on the Swedish home page.

Books: Book sales are just under 5,700, which is very good, and some Amazon payments have started to come in. I continue to work on our next book, which consists of speeches given at the Berlin conference. Derek has been working on a Canadian edition of our Global Labour Movement book. And we’ve reached agreement with Joe Atkins to publish his collection of essays from activists around the world on migrant labour in late 2015.

LabourStart Offline:

  • I spent a couple of days at the DGB training centre in Hattingen, Germany doing a course on online campaigning with the European Trade Union Institute.
  • Derek has done some courses with Unifor in Canada.
  • In November, Espen and I will be in Stockholm meeting with Swedish trade unionists to discuss cooperation (which has already begun).
  • In early November, I’ll be in Vienna attending an OSCE conference, which I will cover for Equal Times, and have already written to LabourStart subscribers there suggesting a meeting.
  • The FES Media project in Africa has shown interest in cooperating with us and I had a 30 minute phone call with their staffer in Windhoek, Namibia about this.
  • Pete Moss, one of our Australian correspondents, visited Indonesia and wrote up a report – see below.

Retreat: We have begun some internal discussions about possibly hosting a LabourStart retreat in Tunis in March 2015. More details coming soon. We are trying out a new online tool called Trello to coordinate this.

Ello: Finally, LabourStart is probably the first labour movement institution with a page on Ello, the new social network.

For details on most of these, see the posts from throughout September on Inside LabourStart.

Another campaign targetting union busting in Turkey

Petrol-Is: Host of the 2011 LabourStart Global Solidarity Conference in Istanbul.

We’ve been asked by IndustriALL to launch this new campaign targetting union-busting in Turkey.

The union being busted is Petrol-Is, the energy workers’ union which hosted the 2011 LabourStart Global Solidarity Conference in Istanbul.

Petrol-Is were very helpful and generous towards us when we needed them; now it’s time to show them how supportive we can be when they need help.

Book sales – approaching 6,000 …

I’ve just gone through the reports from CreateSpace and Amazon and am happy to report that in less than 22 months, LabourStart has distributed 5,651 books.

Of those, 2,442 were Kindle editions offered for free in August 2014 over the course of five days.

The rest — 3,209 — were sold.

Here is the breakdown by title:

Please spread the word in your union about our books — refer people to our Publications page:  http://www.labourstart.org/2013/publications.html

2 new campaigns going live this week

We’ve been asked by IndustriALL to launch a campaign this week in support of a worker in Colombia who’s been treated exceptionally badly by his employer — to the point where he recently attempted suicide.  And the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) in the USA has asked us to launch a campaign to pressure IKEA to play fair with its workers.  These campaigns are being rolled out step-by-step over the next few days, as I’m travelling all week, not back at my desk until Friday.

Opportunity, challenges for Indonesia’s vibrant labour movement – by Peter Moss

Pete Moss is a LabourStart correspondent based in Australia. He’s just returned from a visit to Indonesia.

indonesiaA week in Jakarta meeting union leaders and activists during August taught me two things.

Firstly, this is a period of great opportunity for the Indonesian labour movement to build strongly on gains made in recent years.

Secondly, any international support will be warmly welcomed, including from LabourStart, which is well known and respected among Indonesian unionists.

Unions have won massive gains over the past few years, including a national social security system that will deliver pensions and healthcare for all. The three major union confederations also came together in 2012 for a mighty campaign that delivered a 44 percent increase in the minimum wage. This year Indonesia successfully concluded elections that position the archipelago as the leading democracy in South East Asia. Continued economic growth in this resource-rich diverse nation of 250 million will position Indonesia as a global powerhouse.

The underlying conditions are very positive but inequality is also increasing. Unions face many battles to ensure that workers and their communities are fairly rewarded.
One challenge springs from the scattered structure of the labour movement, which at last count included six registered confederations, 91 federations and 437 enterprise unions. This vibrant movement has emerged only since 1998, when protests brought down the New Order regime and ILO conventions were ratified.
This year the movement divided over the July presidential election. Unions actively intervene in politics, but there is no united strategy and no social democratic or labour party.

Labour Start has a positive profile and universal recognition among the union leaders and labour activists I met.  Particularly appreciated are Labour Start’s Indonesia campaigns, including two for the IndustriALL-affiliated pulp and paper union so far in 2014.

One construction union general secretary pointed to a poster on his office wall and said: ‘When our leader was jailed, Labour Start supported him.’

Several local unionists are active Labour Start supporters, including Indah Budiarto, Nelson Saragih and Khamid Istakhori.  Indonesian unionists are keen to further enhance links with the international movement. Union training was cited as one area where assistance could make a real difference.

Peter Moss

Victory at Autogrill following LabourStart and IUF campaigns

Remember the campaign we launched in May at the LabourStart Global Solidarity Conference in support of striking German workers at Autogrill?

5,930 people signed up to support, though it only appeared in English and German.

That campaign, called by the NGG union, has now resulted in a victory.  The IUF which supported our initial campaign and later ran its own version, is running this statement:

The German Food Workers Union (NGG) have announced a successful conclusion to their fight for a first-ever collective agreement at Autogrill Germany, where workers in Bavaria and Thuringia have been holding strikes since April. On September 9, Autogrill Germany announced it would be joining the national employer organization for the sector, which would bring Autogrill employees under the national collective agreement for the sector.  The NGG has warmly thanked the many thousands who supported the campaign.

Promoting FastMail as a more secure Gmail alternative – and earning commissions for LabourStart

FastMailWe earn a few dollars every time someone signs up to FastMail using this link: http://www.fastmail.fm/?STKI=7274533

I made the case here why I think people should do this anyway – If you care about your privacy and use Gmail, read this.

Here’s a short quote from that article:

Soon, we’ll have Google Glasses and driverless cars and countless other bits of hardware and software that turn our lives into an open book. And that’s a book which is open not to the security services of governments which we, in the end, elect, but to the data mining departments at faceless, privately-owned giant corporations which are accountable to no one.

One could withdraw from all this, close down accounts on Facebook and Twitter, get rid of that FitBit, and ditch the mobile phone which can pinpoint exactly where we are at any moment. Or one could take some simple steps that would radically improve one’s privacy without totally disconnecting from everything.

An easy one is Gmail.

Workshop Invitations Picking Up in Canada

In addition to doing a series of sessions for Unifor, the largest public sector union in Canada, we’ve also recently done a session on LabourStart itself at union conferences in Alberta and New Brunswick and just received an invitation to do a session on international work for the Halifax Labour Council in late October.

I don’t know quite why this surge in interest but I suspect it has something to do with some generational turnover in mid- and senior-level trade union leadership. The people now moving into those positions have kinda grown up with LabourStart.

In any case, so far we’ve been able to say yes to all the requests.

 

Derek Blackadder

LabourStart in Numbers – August 2014

This is a much-shortened version of the monthly report, as it’s already mid-September and due to my holiday, the report had to be delayed.  So this time, it’s just focussing on the 20 biggest mailing lists.  Growing lists are shown in green; shrinking lists are in red.  The previous month’s total is in brackets. The third number — in italics — is where we stood one year ago.

The following lists have gained 1,000 or more new subscribers (net) in the last 12 months: English, French, German, and Korean.  In the same period, the Polish list has nearly tripled in size, and the Indonesian list has more than doubled.

Mailing lists [with 200 or more subscribers]

English: 85,611 [85,191] 81,907
French: 8,188 [7,917] 6,443
German: 5,529 [5,376] 3,312
Spanish: 5,279 [5,234] 4,905
Italian: 4,124 [4,098] 4,017
Turkish: 3,454 [3,450] 3,283
Korean: 3,080 [3,080] 154
Norwegian: 2,853 [2,839] 2,433
Russian: 2,505 [2,514] 2,051
Dutch: 1,691 [1,378] 1,377
Chinese: 1,106 [1,106] 1,011
Polish: 734 [640] 282
Finnish: 684 [655] 577
Japanese: 483 [483] 334
Arabic: 463 [451] 313
Portuguese: 353  [353] 248
Indonesian: 338  [325] 153
Hebrew: 265 [248] 215
Tagalog: 254 [254] 254
Farsi: 242 [242] 207

Summer’s over — three campaigns in one week!

Luis Cardenas - beaten up for his trade union activity.
Luis Cardenas – beaten up for his trade union activity.

UNI has given us this campaign — we’re beginning publicity today.  It involves the defense of trade unionists facing physical violence for their union activities — always a top priority for us.

We’ve also been asked by BWI to help promote their new campaign supporting forestry workers in Malaysia.  We’ll get the word out about that today.

Finally, IndustriALL is likely to be asking us to do a campaign in support of a worker in Colombia who’s been engaged in a 13 year battle to get compensation after a workplace accident, and who recently attempted suicide.