I was commissioned by the International Centre for Trade Union Rights (ICTUR) to write a short article about our August 2009 conference for their journal, International Union Rights. Here is what I wrote:
Stuart Elliott has uploaded videos of the remarks made by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and Teamsters President James Hoffa to YouTube:
Photos of the conference taken by Derek Blackadder and Stuart appear in a special Flickr group.
Mahesh Upadhyaya: State of the trade union movement in India. A union must have 500,000 members in five states/industry. Recognition granted by Ministry of Labour. In India, unions are associated with political parties. Recognized and unrecognized unions; defunct central trade unions. What role can LS play?
Contact individual unions that the Global unions think would be interested in LS. Presently, no other regularly active LS correspondents in India. Difficult to recruit volunteers. Might be useful to have a Hindi edition of LS (need to hire a low-cost translator). Most unionists who do not read English also do not have internet access. Only the elite in urban unions have internet access.
Eric: Hindi edition of LS could be done almost immediately. Bengali edition should be done as well. Reading LS, one would get the impression that there are lots of trade union struggles in Pakistan, but not India, probably because of LS’s relationship to the IUF. More correspondents, more news, more languages between now and when we meet next.
Derek: Letter of introduction to those who do not know us?
David Prosten (UCS): The Union Steward’s Complete Guide. Started book catalog in 1997. Publishes Steward Update, circ. 80,000. Complete Guide has been very successful. Catalog includes hard-core books to build the labor movement, now in many different categories.
Eric: Authors are beginning to approach us with their books. Authors and book sellers trying to figure out: How do you sell a union book to union members? Language concerns–sell books to an international audience.
Derek: Photo of the year competition. It is important to document not only union struggles around the world, but we’re specifically doing, too. Contest was a success and has great potential to go further. We have three union photographers to act as judges. Derek would be happy to do this again next time.
He also believes that some local places might be willing to display our photos. Eric: It is preferable to have this competition the same time each year.
Union website recognition, too, is a useful way to attract attention. Eric: We already do this in our weekly mailings.
Chris Garlock (communications, organizing: dclabor.com) on film festivals. “What have the unions ever done for us?” From Your Rights at Work:
This movie has turned out to be an excellent organizing tool. Christine (from IMF) spoke about films at Global Union Federation labor film contest. 75 submissions this year from around the world. Limited by English, but still growing. Struggle every year is to get quality, interesting films that are not like infomercials, but more and more excellent films are made every year. Purchase a channel to show online films?
Chris: There are probably dozens of film festivals around the world each year. Film is a powerful medium and, with sites such as youtube.com, there is easy access and more and more labor films produced.
“Just another cog in the machine”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLGoKqPAhSk (John Wood). Eric: Viewership for this film jumped over 1000% after mention in LS. Chris: There may be many more films like this out there — we need to find and promote them.
“We were there”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cjnyk06MZRY , with song by Bev Grant w/ Brooklyn Women’s Chorus. Chris: There is a hunger out there for labor history films. Can LS find and help us promote these films?
Eric: There is a need for an online database of labor films and labor-film festivals. It should be a priority. Should consider using tools, such as Youtube and their competitors. Video contest of the year. LS branding. ILCA and CALM should be part of any project. ITUC should be part of the process. Chris: LS can connect people and help get the tools out there. Big return on small investment of time.
Eric: We need more US correspondents that are more engaged in American union issues. LS campaigns on behalf of US unions. How do we get US unions to come to us? American unions need be more involved in international campaigns but, very often, are not interested in international concerns. How can this be combated? How can we do necessary educational work about global issues in the US?
Arieh: We need to get people from unions into sessions like this, maybe from unions that have a connection to an international issue that we have targeted.
Help targeted unions with ActNOW campaigns and eventually find more correspondents. It is even difficult to get people interested in something happening in their own union, but in a different local. International interest? Apathy is not a new problem.
Eric invited to and visited Toronto at the height of the SARS panic. Asked, “What can LS do for you?”
Derek: Effective to contact individuals from unions whose locals use LS news feed and ask them to become correspondents so that their own news will appear on that country’s page.
Tula Connell spoke about the AFL-CIO blog.
But why are American trade unionists so resistant to international trade unionism?
Originally, an SEIU campaign, now being run by the Teamsters. Organizing campaign is successful. Provides people with a forum where workers can talk to workers online. Site is essentially unmoderated, but some particularly unfriendly comments are directed to other sites. Some ground rules in discussion. Every single victory is listed by date, location, company, etc. Some information on Canadian Teamsters. People need to log in to participate and comment. We get names and email addresses.
Stu Elliott: These sites can be a good source of information for LS postings.
This is the most significant political aspect of LS. Our “secret agenda” for the campaigns is to increase the size of our mailing list. By definition, these campaigns are small and specific. However, they also are part of our political organizing; they “raise conscience.” Campaigns “for apple pie” and against global warming. Anti-child labor campaign. Ban nuclear weapons. Such “supersize” campaigns would greatly increase the exposure of LS. This is how we get our mailing list to a million names.
Guidelines for campaigns. Small, local issues are problems. Some requests for campaigns have been “union vs. union”. We only will campaign for an issue of global significance. Must be requested by a national union. Campaign launches should be accomplished automatically. Vietnamese and Japanese translations of our campaigns. Impact on employers will be greater if they are received in as many languages as possible. Maps: where are the campaigns centered? Many in Turkey. None in Latin America.
All of these grow our lists. How did we attract a substantial number of Spanish readers in the past.
In Australia, maybe national (non-global) campaigns. Maybe some country-specific ActNOW campaigns of regional value to LS. (Not enough people are involved.) Those on our US lists are often bothered by the international character of ActNOW issues. Campaign issues: Asbestos? Job security?
Workers rights issues seem to generate the largest responses. Korea? FedEx? Canada produces the most asbestos than any other country in the world–in CLC, this gets no play: many Canadian workers are involved in asbestos production.
Eric: Iran–“How can we help?” Photos of two women sentenced to floggings. From silly employers hit by a campaign–there’s nothing better for us than a good liable suit.
Derek Blackadder said that there have been some important books on unionism and the internet. Some of that information is now dated. Eric Lee’s book. Art Shostak’s book. On the whole, unions may not be making the best use of the internet. Derek will place his extensive outline of the issue on the LS blog.
We need a new book on the subject.
Is there a need for it? Art: this is a critical moment and an exciting one in this country. And dangerous. Our friends take criticism poorly: others are with us or against us. These books are indispensable. Our own unions, however, may ignore this material. Be careful about your publisher. Leftist presses may be ignored by our own people. University presses are problematic.
Stu Elliott: It doesn’t help us that we’re telling unions how to conduct their businesses. Stylistic problems with presentation. We can be critical but a “this is how you do it” slant may work better.
Eric: This is not a book just for trade unionists. Must be a global project. From multiple publishers and in multiple languages that can be used by anyone in the world.
Arieh: Publishing a “handbook” instead of an extensive book may make the information more appealing.
Art: A complete history will be valuable for future discussions of history.
Eric: One book that discusses successes and failures. Need a book by next May.
Need to address popular sites such as FB and Twitter in this book. Art: Are we using information technology to carry the water of the power holders or is there a constellation of values that is independent of governments? What is the “digerati” philosophy?
Should the book include a section on the history and an analysis of LS? This will be an LS publication. In a sense, this book has already been written by Espen Loken … of course, it is in Norwegian.
Ass’n for Union Democracy contests. Labor Tech Conference. Lessons to be learned from these groups.
Continuing discussion from morning. Walk through some of the features of UnionBook.
Blogs and blog aggregators: Stuart Elliott speaks about Talking Union, the DSA labor blog … and pineapples. Some are linking LS to their blog pages.
There are an increasing number of bloggers in US, who have no specific union backing, who post material on trade union issues. Blog aggregators help build a sense of community among bloggers. They have also created increasing interest in the labor movement, at least in Canada. There seem not to be prominent blog aggregators involving union issues in the US.