Category: Campaigns

Massacre in Ankara, and more

In the last 3 weeks …

Massacre in Ankara:

Upon hearing the news on Saturday morning from our comrades in DISK, we mobilized correspondents to post many news stories, to translate some of them from English, and to encourage global unions to issue statements, many of which have done so.

We made sure that social media highlighted our coverage of the massacre and the general strike which followed. We also gave a boost to the various GUF and ITUC statements.

We made the photo of the week, and the covers for our Facebook page and group, entirely black as a sign of our mourning for the deaths of so many our comrades.

And of course we indicated our willingness to launch a campaign if the Turkish or global unions wanted one.


Eric and Gisela participated in the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung’s Berlin conference on the subject of transnational campaigns – full report below. We distributed many LabourStart flyers in English and German, and gave away 30 copies of our book about our campaign wins.

The workers at London’s National Gallery won a victory and we closed that campaign down.

Mulberry responded to our campaign, sending out a message to the thousands of supporters. IndustriALL wrote a response which we shared with our lists.

Though he’s not yet been released from prison, we closed down the Esmail Abdi campaign with the agreement of the Education International, after three months. There will almost certainly be follow-up campaigns for him and other prisoners in Iran.

We also closed down the BWI campaign in support of workers at SFI Malaysia after 3 months.

We also promoted a number of campaigns for fraternal organizations:

  • the IUF’s new PepsiSqueeze campaign,
  • the ITUC’s campaign in support of the ILO’s forced labour protocol,
  • the ITUC campaign on Mauritanian slaves in Saudi Arabia,
  • a BananaLink campaign in support of workers in Costa Rica
  • and an Australian campaign in support of workers in Queensland.

World Day for Decent Work (WDDW)

The World Day for Decent Work on 7 October was publicized on our social network pages and groups, as well as covered on our news pages.

On our social networks, we helped publicize the BWI Thunderclap for the WDDW.

Publicity and outreach

The Labor Day issue of Democratic Left, a US publication, ran an article of mine that was mostly about LabourStart – it’s here:

Derek has been invited to speak at the congress of the Confederation of Canadian Unions, the smallest of the central labour bodies, in Vancouver in late October.

Eric participated in the recent AGM of the International Centre for Trade Union Rights, in London, and has been invited to participate in an event on labour history, representing LabourStart, at the International Insitute for Social History in Amsterdam in December.

Social networks

Our Twitter followers broke the 15,000 barrier early in October.  We are now up to 15,054 followers.  (Our Facebook page recently broke the 10,000 barrier as well; we have 10,134 likes there. )

Following a decision taken at the Strategic Retreat in Brussels, we offered UnionBook to a number of fraternal organizations; two turned us down, one is thinking about it, one hasn’t answered yet. Meanwhile, we’ve removed all references to LabourStart on the UnionBook home page.

ls-fbWe fixed how LabourStart stories are posted to Facebook, so that now we show a small graphic (there it is, over on the right), rather than letting Facebook arbitrarily choose an image that may have once been on our home page.

(For some reason, it had been showing an Israeli flag recently.)

Thunderclap Results (or lack thereof)

by Derek Blackadder

The following is a section of my regular column (Webwork) in the Canadian labour magazine Our Times. Eric thought it might be of interest and so…

ON HIS WAY TO THE EDUCATION International World Congress in Ottawa in July, Iranian teachers’ union leader Esmail Abdi was arrested by the Iranian police; detained without charge; likely tortured; and almost certainly thinking about the fate of his predecessor, Farzad Kamangar, who was executed after a trial lasting seven minutes.

Education International (EI), the global federation of unions in the education sector, together with the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF), immediately unleashed a campaign to have Abdi freed. Included was an online action hosted on LabourStart and sponsored by EI. CTF also rolled out a Thunderclap action to further drive large numbers of people to LabourStart.

The sponsor of a Thunderclap gets as many people as possible to sign on to the clap. When signing on, people must give Thunderclap one-time-only access to their accounts. Then, at the sponsor-selected time, the same text (in this case a bilingual appeal to participate in the LabourStart action) booms out from dozens or hundreds or thousands of social media accounts.

The CTF Thunderclap campaign should have built faster than it did. The threshold for the action was pegged at 250 accounts. That’s accounts, not people, and I presume at least a few people registered two or more accounts like I did. Even so, we had to extend the deadline to meet our modest mark.

A trade unionist in prison for doing what you and I, and a whole lot of Canadians, do every day; the backing of the CTF, a reputable Canadian union with a ton of members and the sophistication to not only come up with a Thunderclap but also to make it work; and, as a bonus, the backing of a global union federation whose affiliates have tens of millions of members — why didn’t the Thunderclap catch fire?

Here’s why: Anything to do with Iran, including trade unionists in Iranian jails, makes people nervous. People try to avoid feeling nervous. So they don’t join an online action about Iran.

The plot thickens: People on the LabourStart mailing list joined, though, in big numbers. But not people targeted by the CTF’s appeal. LabourStart readers are used to international actions, and they’re used to getting something regularly, if not frequently, about Iran. Their sense of the place goes beyond media stories about nuclear programs and negotiations in Vienna.

CTF on the other hand, has an audience that knows it, and trusts it — an audience of no mean size. But not one that gets a lot of CTF appeals on the subject of Iran. That disconnect is enough, according to the teacher I spoke to. He signed on to the Thunderclap, but he’s certain none of his tweeting buds did, despite his (online-only) encouragement. CTF likely also faced the problem of its audience being off work, and therefore a bit disconnected, during the summer.

Which brings me to the second barrier the campaign faced: A lack of trust. Not in the CTF, not at all. But in Thunderclap.

Giving Thunderclap access to our accounts, especially now that we can log in everywhere using our Facebook account information, is a big hurdle to get over. A really big hurdle.

Now, to what really matters — the numbers at the back end. All the effort the CTF folks and their affiliates put into the Thunderclap generated access to Twitter and Facebook accounts connected to an audience numbering almost 345,000 people.

So, how many new solidarity emails did the Thunderclap generate in the end?

Sixty-six. That’s a response rate of approximately 0.019 per cent. A typical
LabourStart mailing sees response rates of eight to 20 per cent.

Here’s the dilemma: using Thunderclap can be an incredibly effective way to reach a huge audience. But using Thunderclap can also be a gamble: you trade the trust members already have in their own union for an unknown. You’re asking people to trust in something you don’t control — in something you yourself may not entirely trust.

Worse perhaps is that the further away from the core group the message traveled, the weaker audience interest became. I want to see Esmail Abdi out of jail. So I sign on to the Thunderclap.  But if most of my Facebook friends are members of my model airplane club, my account is effectively useless for a trade union rights campaign.

Conclusion? Email, once again. Specifically this: send an email to people with an interest in the issue, people who want to be on your mailing list, and who trust the organization sending the appeal enough to take a minute and act. Underpin any action with that action.

And if you think that’s not worth the effort, well then, you’ve picked up Our Times when you meant to grab Maclean’s. Move fast and you might be able to get your money back.

Berlin conference on transnational campaigning by unions

I’ve just returned from a three-day visit to Berlin, where I was invited to represent LabourStart (together with Gisela) at a conference on transnational campaigning for trade unions organized by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES).

bwiberlinOn the final day of the conference, the FES sponsored an event to commemorate the World Day for Decent Work, focussing on the various campaigns conducted by the ITUC and global unions on mega sport events, like the football World Cup and the Olympics.  Tos Anonuevo from BWI, the global union for construction workers, gave a major presentation, and one of his slides (pictured to the left) entitled “Generating support, creating alliances” featured LabourStart right in the center.

We were not in the center of the conference, however, but that didn’t mean that LabourStart didn’t come up again and again.  For example:

  • The opening presentation by the ITUC’s Tim Noonan specifically noted LabourStart’s role in supporting the ITUC’s campaigns.
  • IndustriALL’s Adam Lee mentioned how his global union sees LabourStart as one of its partners.
  • A representative of Solidarnosc from Poland came over to say how pleased his union is with our current campaign in support of workers in the port of Gdansk.  When I apologized for the relatively low level of support, he said that it was about 50% larger than they had hoped for.
  • In a workshop on UNI’s campaign targetting Prosegur, the third largest private security company in the world, LabourStart came up several times. Benjamin Parton reported that one of the only two occasions when the company did want to speak with UNI was because of one of our campaigns.  The Spanish-based company, which predominantly works in Latin America, was particularly concerned about the thousands of messages we generated from “First World” countries.

On another note, we were not the only campaigning organization there, and while other groups sometimes have larger mailing lists (and budgets) than we do, it turns out that we can sometimes be considerably more effective.

One such group did a recent campaign for one of the global union federations who were very pleased with the results.  But it turned out that despite having a mailing list 45 times as large as ours, their campaign was only 3 times the size of one of our larger ones.  To put it another way, our mailing list — which is filled with trade unionists who have a genuine interest in labour rights — routinely produces a return rate of 10%, while this organization struggled to get 1% of its supporters to back the union campaign.

LabourStart’s first-ever strategic retreat

On 18-20 September, about 25 LabourStart senior correspondents and translators, together with partners from the global union federations, met at the offices of the German national trade union centre in Brussels for our first-ever strategic retreat.

It was a meeting with few speeches and lots of discussion and resulted in a long action plan, including the creation of a very small Executive and a number of working groups.

The Executive members (pictured below) are Espen Løken, Andrew Casey, Kirill Buketov, Silvana Pennella, Eric Lee (editor), Gisela Neunhöffer, and Derek Blackadder.


More details to follow in the next few weeks.

Here are some other highlights of the last two weeks (in alphabetical order by subject) …

Bank: Our bank, the trade-union-owned Unity Trust, has changed its sort code. If you need to make transfers to our account, write to [email protected] and I’ll send you the new details.

Books: I have ordered, and will be distributing, 60 copies of our red book on online campaigning at the upcoming FES event on online campaigning in Berlin, early next month.


  • We launched a new campaign in support of workers in Kyrgyzstan, working together with IndustriAll.
  • Mulberry, the target of our current Turkey campaign, has written to everyone who sent a message laying out their side of the story. IndustriALL will be giving us a response.
  • We are in discussions with FIM, the musicians’ GUF, about a possible campaign in support of their affiliate in Cameroon.
  • We sent out a mass mailing in English to promote our victory in Aeroflot — and to encourage people to sign up to all our current campaigns.
  • Though not a formal campaign, we gave extensive publicity on the site and on social media to the death in custody of an Iranian trade union activist, Shahrokh Zamani.

Conference: Our Global Solidarity Conference will be held in Toronto in May 2016. More details coming soon.

Inside LS (this blog): I’ve tried to fix the automated mailings of new posts from here so that the subject line isn’t always “Breaking News” — we’ll know in a moment if that worked.

Mailing lists: We added 193 new subscribers this week, 245 last week, and 580 the week before that, for total of 1,018 — mostly to the English list.

Portuguese/Brazilian LS: We’ve gotten our Facebook and Twitter feeds going now. We also now have a ‘What is LS?’ page there in Portuguese.


  • The German national trade union centre DGB has a major article on LabourStart in their magazine, both the print and online versions.
  • I completed the text of an interview about LS for an Italian language magazine published in Luxemburg.
  • I was invited to speak at two meetings of Waltham Forest UNISON in North London, and publicized our campaigns, giving out our flyers to a few dozen members.
  • Several of us met in Brussels with the head of communications of the European Trade Union Confederation and discussed cooperation.

UnionBook: We’ve had to migrate control of the domain name ( from our previous provider, and managed to get this to work, though the site was offline for several hours. We’ve removed all references to LabourStart from its front page as we consider next steps for this social network.

Summer’s over – and LabourStart gets busy again

It’s not been much of summer here in London, but then again, it never is.

Here’s how we’ve spent the last 3 weeks:


We launched one in support of port workers in Gdansk, together with Solidarnosc and the ITF. As today, it has 7,045 supporters and appears in 14 languages, including Polish.

We also launched a new campaign in support of striking workers at the National Gallery in London, together with PSI and the PCS union in Britain. After just a week, the campaign has 6,140 supporters and appears in 9 languages.

We closed down the China campaign, launched in June. It had 10,373 supporters. The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions told us that the campaign helped “to spread out the message and to draw attention to the imprisoned labour activists” and “although we did not hear any feedback from the Chinese government, there is one [piece of] legislation which was mentioned in this statement restricting the operation and international connection of NGOs in mainland was postponed.”

After closing the recent Hungary campaign, we receive this from the union: “Tamás Járási, president of MCDSz, thanks all those who supported this campaign. The company was upset by it, and told workers it was not a ‘true’ campaign but ‘only a spam driven from London’, and apparently complained to the Dutch ambassador about it. The union judged the campaign to be a success, and said it strengthened morale among the workers. Meanwhile, the struggle continues.”

We have been asked for help by a union in Congo and have passed this on to UNI, who are looking into it.

We’ve agreed to help BWI with a campaign in the Gulf region later this month.

An Iran solidarity group is keen to have us help with a particular prisoner; we’ve raised this with friends at Amnesty International.  It is not clear which GUF could be called upon to support this particular prisoner.

We had a request for a campaign from the Colombia Solidarity Campaign, but have not heard anything back from them after we asked some questions.

We also had a request for a campaign from Zimbabwe that stalled, and we await answers.

Mailing lists

We’ve improved the layout of mailings to our English list to give readers the chance to sign up to campaigns they missed, to donate to LabourStart, and more.

There was an attempt to add over 100 fake addresses to one of our lists, but we spotted it and spent some time dealing with the problem. We’ll need to tighten up security on our campaigns form to prevent this happening in future.


We’ve resumed our partnership with unionized bookshop with a low-key publicity campaign for a ‘book of the month’. This has led to a bit of an overhaul of our state news pages, with the country news pages coming next. (See the US states to see what I mean, for example Kentucky.)

Our Global Labour Movements book is currently being translated into Burmese (by the ILO office in Burma), into Portuguese (by Euan, our correspondent in Brazil) and Canadian (well, a Canadian edition) by Derek. The book is already available in English and French.


Our events module wasn’t working on some pages (e.g., Canada, Portuguese) but is now, having been fixed.

Talks & other publicity

I have been invited to speak about LabourStart campaigns to UNISON Waltham Forest, in North London.

I will also be interviewed by an Italian-language magazine based in Luxemburg, about LabourStart, thanks to Silvana.


Andy has done the translation so that our next Android app will appear in French – in addition to the versions we have in English, Norwegian and Esperanto.

Global Solidarity Conference 2016

We’re still planning on this happening next spring in Toronto, and are waiting to confirm a final date.


A lot of work was done by myself and others to prepare for next week’s Strategic Retreat in Brussels. More here when the Retreat is over.

LabourStart in Numbers – Q3 2015

This quarterly report raises more questions than it answers, and here are some of them:

1. We’re showing the total number of downloads from Google’s Android store for the first time. As we can see, after some time, many users who downloaded an app cease to be active users, or delete it from their phones. What can we do to sustain our numbers and grow them?

2. Nearly all our mailing lists are either shrinking or static (Swedish is an artificial growth – imports from the English list). What can we do to grow our lists over time? (Short answer: get unions which request campaigns to promote them to their members and allies.)

3. Only 5 new correspondents added in the last 90 days — how can we bring in new ones, especially to replace those who become inactive over time?

4. Traffic to our news pages remains quite low, especially to the non-English ones. We have twice as many unique users of our campaigns as we have of news.  What can we do to drive traffic to our news site? Ads on Google and Facebook?

NEW: Android app downloads (totals)

First number is current, second number is total installs

English: 428 / 686
Norwegian: 33 / 31
Esperanto: 28 / 76

Total: 489 current installs

Mailing lists

English: 85,962 – 86,373
French: 8,299 – 8,276
German: 5,793 – 5,700
Spanish: 5,462 – 5,431
Italian: 3,998 – 4,039
Turkish: 3,755 – 3,650
Korean: 2,996 – 3,080
Norwegian: 2,749 – 2,790
Russian: 2,384 – 2,408
Dutch: 1,775 – 1,743

Swedish: 1,239 – 387
Chinese: 1,103 – 1,103
Polish: 734 – 752
Finnish: 687 – 687
Japanese: 483 – 483
Arabic: 463 – 463
Portuguese: 373 – 355
Indonesian: 346 – 346
Hebrew: 282 – 278
Tagalog: 254 – 254
Farsi: 242 – 242

Social networks

Twitter followers

English: 14,881 – 14,676
Canada English: 4,613 – 4,422
Canada French: 803 – 728
USA: 524 – 521
Indonesia: 341 – 292
Italian: 330 – 290
French: 225 – 224
Spanish: 76 – 76
German: 75 – 76
Japanese: 21 – 21
Russian: 19 – 19
Portuguese: 8 – 7


Like page (English): 10,078 – 9,893
Members of LabourStart group: 8,526 – 8,500
Like LabourStart page (French): 478 – 478
Like LabourStart page (German): 433 – 428
Like LabourStart page (Turkish): 165 – 161
Like LabourStart page (Hebrew): 145 – 143


Members: 5,885 – 5,879


LabourStart group: 1,948 – 1,944


Union group on Flickr: 791 – 790


Correspondents: 789 – 784 (news)

Unique users – 18,711 – 24,170

Top countries (by sessions):

USA 27% – 28%
Canada 15% – 14%
UK 8% – 8%
Australia 6% – 8%
India 5% – 5%

Most popular pages – page views:

Home page – English 33,294 – 44,076
USA – English 14,883 – 13,854
Canada – English 6,543 – 6,791
Home page – Norwegian – 2,493
Australia – 2,234 – 2,673 (campaigns)

Unique users – 39,436 – 30,849

Top countries (by sessions):

Canada 19% – 23%
USA 15% – 15%
UK 15% – 12%
Germany 6% – 7%
Australia 5% – 4%

Most popular pages – page views:

Iran: Free Esmail Abdi now – 13,947
China: Stop police violence against workers fighting for their rights – 13,105
Turkey: Union busting at €1,000 hand bag producer SF Leather – 10,211
Malaysia: Stop union busting in SFI – 9,058
Poland: Stop sackings and union busting at port – 4,760

The last 16 days at LabourStart


We closed our Hungarian campaign after three months. We also closed our Iran May Day campaign, noting that all the jailed trade unionists we mentioned have now been released.

We publicized on social media a USW campaign supporting striking steelworkers, an IndustriALL campaign and an ITF campaign supporting workers at the port of Beirut.

We answered a request for help from a farm workers union in Honduras; we may launch a campaign on this.

We proposed launching a campaign in support of striking workers in the National Gallery in London to their union and PSI.

We publicized Unite the Union’s campaign targetting Pizza Express (UK) with a dedicated mailing to our UK list, and publicity on our news pages and on social media – on our initiative.

We did a dedicated mailing to our Australian list to support the AMWU’s Asbestos campaign – at their request.

I will be attending the FES conference on global labour campaigning in October in Berlin.

I began work on the code for our campaign page to compel users to enter a country and email address (for some reason this no longer works and some have made submissions with this field blank).

Mailing list:

We added 89 new subscribers so far this month.

Our Swedish list is now considerably larger as we’ve migrated hundreds of Swedes who were on our English list – back in the days when we didn’t regularly campaign in Swedish. It has grown from 387 in early July to 1,245 today. (The Norwegian list remains considerably larger at 2,763.)


We’re attempting to revive the Turkish home page; got one existing correspondent to commit to working on this.

We made a special effort to give comprehensive coverage of the London Underground strikes earlier this month, and promoted that coverage on social media.


We’re slowly reviving our partnership with unionized bookshop See our home page in English – with more to come.


We removed an old link (very prominent) from the top of our Working Women’s News page.

We contacted UNI about an application for membership from a Palestinian postal workers union.

A quiet start to August

Our Turkey campaign (SF Leather/Mulberry) with well over 9,000 messages sent, is now our third largest current campaign, having displaced the Malaysia forestry workers’ campaign.  We’ve finally seen an increase in the number of supporters from Turkey itself, with 299 supporting the Turkish-language version of the campaign and another 120 people from Turkey supporting the English version.

In the next five days I expect to close two campaigns launched in early May — in support of workers in Hungary and Iran.  Both campaigns attracted fewer than 7,000 supporters each, while all the campaigns since then have been considerably larger.  Our current Iran campaign, for example, is 78% larger than the one we launched in May.

As a result of these campaigns, our mailing lists continue to grow. I just added 195 new supporters to our lists, with 144 of them going to the English list.

We publicized the IUF’s latest campaign (hotel workers in Myanmar) both through our Facebook page and group, and in a mass mailing.  Following our mailing, the number of supporters for that campaign has nearly doubled.

There had been a problem when we posted a link to one of our country news pages (e.g., Canada) on Facebook.  We had no control over the image that was shown, nor was the text particularly suitable.  These have now been fixed.

We’ve been approached by the Palestinian postal workers union who are asking for our help in getting connected internationally.  I’ve passed this on to UNI and we’ll explore helping them make links directly with postal workers unions in different countries.

Thunderclaps, social networks and how to grow a campaign

The last seven days at LabourStart …


SF Leather/Mulberry: I sent out a followup mailing to the 70,000+ people on the English list who didn’t open last week’s message. This added a considerable number of new supporters. The campaign is now up to 8,432 supporters. Due to the very low response to our first appeal in Turkish, we drafted an entirely new appeal and sent that out as well. Still, response rates in Turkey remain low, with just 131 supporters for the Turkish language version of the campaign (plus another 90 supporters of the English campaign from Turkey).  I have consulted our Turkish comrades and we are discussing why this is happening and what we can do about it.

Esmail Abdi: This remains our largest current campaign, with 12,252 messages sent so far. The Canadian teachers-initiated Thunderclap was successful in the sense that it reached over 330,000 people, but it generated very few new supporters for the campaign. This confirms previous experience with using Facebook and Twitter to promote campaigns — their impact is much less than you might think, and email remains a far more powerful tool. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use social networks — of course we should; in fact, we’re posting more content than ever before to Facebook, reaching a larger audience.

IUF SABMiller campaign: Following the company’s attempt to block messages, we did a mailing to encourage support this IUF campaign.

Translations: I’ve improved an online form I created some time ago which will make it easier and quicker to deal with submitted translations of campaigns (where the translators are unable to upload the campaigns themselves). We’ll start using this from the next campaign we get.

Mailing lists:

We continue to pick up many new subscribers due to the campaigns. A couple of days ago, I added 256 new subscribers — including 44 new ones for our Turkish language list.
We now have a Sinhalese list, but only one name on it for the moment.


Our Norwegian language app for Android is now available in the Google Play store.


We’ve had 3 large donations from Canadian unions in recent days.

Two new campaigns launched; others may follow soon

2798We launched a new campaign in support of workers at SF Leather in Turkey, suppliers to the luxury British handbag company Mulberry, who are fighting for the right to join a union. Within 24 hours, the campaign was in six languages and had over 5,000 supporters.

We also launched a new Canada-only campaign in support of striking municipal workers in Hay River, Northwest Territories.  They’ve been on strike for more than five months and need all the help they can get.  If you’re reading this, feel free to sign up to support them — even if you don’t live in Canada.

Our campaign in support of jailed Iranian teacher trade unionist Esmail Abdi is our largest current campaign, with just under 12,000 supporters.  I had a meeting with an Iranian human rights activist and we discussing deepening our cooperation. LabourStart is apparently quite well-regarded in these circles and there is much we can do.

It turns out there will be no need for us to a campaign in support the jailed LabourStart correspondent in Transnistria; according to reports we’ve received, he has now been released.

There remains the possibility of a campaign in Germany; a member of our Berlin group is looking into this.

Our mailing lists grew today as we added 246 new supporters, mostly for the English list.