Category: Site redesign

Weekly roundup: Asbestos campaign, Facebook UK, site redesign, and more

Campaigns: We launched three new ones – on asbestos (a global campaign), Madagascar, and Kazakhstan. Only the first has gone live with full publicity and translations as there are some issues still to be resolved with the latter two; we’ve gotten over 2,600 messages sent since yesterday evening in support of the asbestos ban. I closed a UK-only campaign launched on behalf of BFAWU (the bakers) — I’m pleased to report that we won this. The previous Kazakhstan campaign was also closed this week.

Mailing list: Without a new campaign, the list barely grows — we picked up just 78 new subscribers this week, most of them for the French list. Matt and Mark in Berlin have offered to join the team posting messages, so our German language mailings should go out quicker.

News: We added one new correspondent from Yemen and one from Brazil.

UK: We’ve set up a LabourStart UK Facebook page and will start promoting it next week; Warren is helping by posting news stories to it. After getting a few complaints about the mailing we did last week in support of Ruskin College, I received a clarification from the person who asked us to do it and shared that with everyone who wrote in.

Website redesign: I followed up with a London-based worker coop which has offered to help us with this; we’ll probably meet up in May to discuss next steps.

Outreach: I reached out to a major Irish trade and we had a phone call to discuss ways we can help them and work together. I also had a long conversation with a US based campaigning group and we’re looking for ways we can work together.

Social media: We used Facebook and Twitter this week to highlight a number of important issues including the ITUC’s condemnation of Assad’s chemical attack on his own people, a call for a global ban on modern slavery, and an expose of the use of North Korean slaves in Russia — all this in addition to ongoing Facebook posts and tweets which Derek has been coordinating.

The week in review – 11-17 September

Calendar: Sale of our LabourStart Calendar for 2014 have stalled — we only sold 18 in the last 6 days (of those, 8 were in Canada, 5 in Australia, 3 in the UK and 2 in the USA).  I’ve already done two rounds of publicity and today will be mailing to nearly 500 state federations of labor and central labor councils in the USA in an attempt to boost sales there.


  • August was an exceptionally slow month for us, so 5 days ago I wrote to all our campaign partners — GUFs and others — asking if anyone needed help.  We got answers from a number of them an expect to launch several new campaigns in the next couple of weeks.
  • Edd and I met with a leader of the UN staff union and they have been facing a brutal attack on workers’ rights from the Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, and will probably be needing a campaign from us in the next few days.
  • We closed down the Philippines campaign one month early (see below) and the GE Erie campaign one month late (at the request of the union).
  • We did a special mailing to our Canadian subscribers boosting a number of campaigns there (not all of these were hosted by LabourStart).

Intern: As I reported below, Edd is leaving us at the end of this month (though will continue working one day a week for LabourStart) and we’ve begun the process of recruiting a replacement.


  • The biggest improvement, described below, is that now you can get beyond the first 50 news stories on any of our country pages.   (This will soon work on our home pages in the different languages as well.)
  • I’ve also fixed a problem with links to the country names that were appearing on the home page in English — the first time the name appeared, the link would take you to our new, correct country news page, but the second appearance of the country name still took you to an old page.
  • With so much coverage of the British TUC conference last week, we did a special mailing to our UK list promoting the news page.  It’s very important that we continue to draw attention to our news service, as many of the people on our mailing list are familiar with our campaigns — but not with the news we provide.


  • As reported below, a correspondent can now change their default language and country — either temporarily or permanently.  This caused a small problem for senior correspondents, as Derek discovered, but this has now been fixed.
  • We’ve been struggling to make sure that we have current email addresses for all the correspondents and Edd has nearly completed this task.
  • This week, I resumed weekly mailings to correspondents and I intend to keep doing this.


  • Our failure to sustain LabourStart news in any Nordic language except Norwegian has been with us for some time.  This week, I wrote to all our subscribers on the English list from Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden and have received responses from 10 of them — at least one has volunteered to be a correspondent, others have already contact their national trade union centres in the hope of growing interest in LabourStart.
  • Our French home page was the last one to be converted to our new format and this is now complete.

Kiev 2013: There will be a meeting of LabourStart correspondents from Russia, Ukraine and Georgia (and other countries?) in Kiev at the beginning of November.  Masha has drafted an invitation letter which I’ve read and approved, and Edd has found email addresses for all our correspondents from the region who have been invited.  I will be attending myself.

Berlin 2014: I’ve fixed a meeting at the ITUC in Brussels for two weeks from today to discuss how our conference ties in with theirs.  They’ve been exceptionally cooperative and this is hugely important for the success of our global solidarity conference.

Small screen version of LabourStart: Edd’s been working on a version of the site that will automatically appear when you view it on a smartphone, as we’ve done with campaigns.  This is nearly ready.

Daily tech tips for trade unionists: I  wrote ten of these which appeared over the last couple of weeks and got some nice and interesting feedback.  Would be interested to know if comrades would like this to continue.  Meanwhile, I’m pausing the effort.

Odds and ends …

  1. I’ve tweaked our front page in English yet again, getting rid of the Firefox ad, creating a new and more prominent ad for all our books (not just the most recent) and with a link to our new publications page.  This has resulted in today’s labour news being much closer to the top of the page (less scrolling).
  2. I completed work publicizing our Peru campaign, which is lagging somewhat as it’s August.  Please do what you can to help build this.
  3. Our popular Canadian edition has gotten a makeover in its French version, which now features French language Canada-only campaigns, French language events and some small corrections to province names.
  4. We’ve made some good progress on our LabourStart calendar — lots of great events added, and Edd working hard to find 13 great photos.
  5. Found a solution to a small problem we were having with the caption to our photo of the day feature.
  6. On our campaign pages, we’re now showing news in the local language first, so if you’re looking at our Peru campaign in French, in the latest news box, you’ll see the French news before the English news.
  7. We also had a problem with the campaign counter in the unusual situation where we may continue running a campaign in one language having shut it down in English.  Now fixed, sort of.
  8. Edd has given me a lesson in how to prepare a book for publication in CreateSpace — we hope to have our third book ready in early September.
  9. Our conference organizing committee met in Berlin yesterday — we’re told it was a productive meeting and they have another one scheduled in two weeks.
  10. The UE has given us permission to close down its campaign on August 20th – so this is your last chance to build support …
  11. I’ve reviewed our “dormant languages” – the ones we set up, but which haven’t been showing any news recently.  After a major push by us, we managed to revive the Italian and Portuguese editions, and there are even some signs of life in our Serbian edition.  But disappointment in the Nordic countries — only the Norwegian edition is alive, and despite our best efforts, we’ve not been able to revive our once-lively Finnish edition or the Danish and Swedish editions.  Will continue trying.
  12. Our campaigns employ a version of “responsive design” now and render better than ever on mobile phones (test this and compare what you see to what’s on the desktop). This is hugely important as a growing number of people get email messages from us on their phones and they need to see the campaigns correctly without needing to scroll horizontally.  Many campaigning organizations still get this wrong, unfortunately.
  13. Oh, and Twitter cards is now working for us.  Have a look at some of my recent tweets.  You may need to click on View Summary under the tweet to see what I’ve done.

The week in review – 20-23 July

This will be my last update for a while — I will be back at my desk on 12 August for a week and a half, and then back to work after the summer break on 28 August.

Mailing lists: I fixed the link on the English and new French home pages to ensure that anyone signing up to mailing lists there is added to our old MailChimp lists.  I migrated some who had subscribed (prematurely) to the new Sendy lists.  We’re not yet using Sendy for English or French, but we will.

Campaigns: I’ve sent out monthly reminders to our partners in general, and specific ones to our friends at the 3 Cosas campaign in London and GE workers in Erie, Pennsylvania campaign at the two-month mark.  We’ve promoted the Maruti Suzuki campaign in Hindi to more than 300 Indians who are on our English language mailing list.  We’re beginning to grow a small mailing list in Hindi as a result.

Books: I’ve followed up with CreateSpace and our bank about missing royalty payments totalling over £500.  We’ve been asked to ship 60 copies of our Global Labour Movement book to the founding congress of the International Domestic Workers Network in Montevideo in October.

Asia: I’ve followed up with the 15 trade union communicators I met at the recent ILO course in Turin, asking them to support, publicize, and translate our campaigns, and to signup as volunteer correspondents.

Publicity: I was interviewed this morning for an article to appear in Labour Research.

Kiev conference in November: Edd and I have been invited to participate in an event linking together trade unionists and democratic socialists from across the former Soviet Union.  One of the days will be devoted to a meeting of LabourStart correspondents from across the region.

Brussels course in October: I’ll be teaching trade unions from across Europe about campaigning in a course organized by the European Trade Union Institute.  I did this last year by Skype; this year, they’re bringing me over to Brussels.

LabourStart home page in French: Edd has done a lot more work on this and we are nearly ready for launch.  We’ll be meeting Andy in London in August and can finalize then.

The week in review – 27 June – 5 July


Bangladesh: The ITUC is proposing a new campaign in support of changes to the labour laws; it could be launched today.

India: We’ve been asked to do a campaign in support of Suzuki workers.  We’re waiting for an answer from IndustriALL on this.

Turkey: We’re up to 21,634 supporters for this, our largest-ever campaign.

Canada: Our campaign in support of brewery workers is rapidly approaching the 5,000 mark, which is exceptionaly good for a campaign in just one language, targetting only one country.  It was helped by the IUF promoting it in a mailing.

PepsiCo India: We helped the IUF promote this important campaign on their site, which is now up to well over 9,400 supporters.

Thailand: Our campaign in support of Andy Hall was closed, and we await news from BWI and UNI about the results.

International Training Centre of the ILO – Turin, Italy

I spoke yesterday at a seminar for trade union communicators from Asia.  There were 15 participants from a wide range of countries and for most of them it was their first exposure to LabourStart.  Each of them left with copies of both of our books.  I’ll be following up with all of them as individuals.

LabourStart books

Our total sales for Campaigning online and winning is 904 (78 in French, 826 in English), and for the Global labour movement it’s 427 (English only).  Of those 1,253 books, 92 were Kindle editions and all the rest, paperbacks.  We’re working hard on books 3 and 4 now, and will have more details very soon.


We did the quarterly fundraising mailing on Monday to our 19,692 core supporters (people who’ve supported at least 3 LabourStart campaigns in the last 12 months).  There were some issues with the payment system (until today, it only accepted one currency) and some people were confused about how to change the default country it was showing. Nevertheless, we’ve received a considerable number of donations, totalling £1,523 (US$2,283).

Labour history calendar

We’re now getting closer to publishing this and today are writing to a number of key LabourStart correspondents and translators in different countries to get the best 13 illustrations we can for this.

New home page

Edd has been working together with Espen and Andy to finalize the migration of our last two remaining language editions of LabourStart to the new format introduced some time ago in Englsh.  The Norwegian version is now live and the French one is coming soon.

The week in review – 19 – 26 June


The Turkey campaign has now reached an unprecedented level of support, with over 21,250 messages sent.  For the first time, German is the second language with 1,076 messages sent — a new record.  (This will be very helpful in raising our profile in Germany prior to our conference in Berlin next year.)

We launched a new Canadian campaign in support of beer workers in Newfoundland and Labrador.  It’s gotten over 1,530 messages sent in the first few days online – making it larger already than the UK-only campaign in support of University of London cleaners.

It’s been more than 3 weeks since we launched a global campaign, and as we expect to soon shut down the Thailand campaign (this week) and the USA Vancouver lockout campaign (in about 20 days), we may soon have just two live global campaigns running.

Next global solidarity conference – Berlin, May 2014

Eric, Edd and Gisela met in London on Monday in the first face-to-face discussion about the conference.  It was a very productive meeting and has been followed up with the creation of a shared Evernote notebook in which members of the organizing committee in Berlin and London are sharing ideas and information.


Our list of press contacts continues to grow, and we now have over 80 journalists we’ll be writing to regularly.  If anyone reading this has email addresses of journalists who cover labour news, please share those addresses with us.  Thanks.

I’ve been invited to speak next week at the ILO International Training Centre in Turin, Italy to a group of 15 trade union communicators from 9 countries in Asia.  There will be people from unions in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.  One of the subjects I’m expected to cover is LabourStart campaigns.  I’ll be giving each of the participants copies of the two LabourStart books and will attempt to awaken their interest in our project with a view toward recruiting more correspondents, translators, etc.

LabourStart books

Sales at last weekend’s Ideas for Freedom in London were disappointing.

The total sales CreateSpace reports on the Global Labour Movement book since its publication two months ago is 364 plus 27 Kindle editions, for a total of 391.  This doesn’t include sales from our office.

As for the Campaigning Online book, CreateSpace reports sales of 630 copies sold, plus 65 Kindle editions, for a total of 695.  In addition, we sold over 62 copies from our office and gave away at least 44, including review copies, so the total distribution of this book is over 800.  In addition,  the French edition of the Campaigning book has sold 78 copies through CreateSpace.


We just heard that a large British union has contributed £1,000.  Next week I’ll do the quarterly mailing to our 15,923 19,692 “power users” — the people who tend to support all our online campaigns.  The last mailing raised several thousand pounds, so I hope that this time we’ll do as well — or better.

Today in Labour History

We’ve made some progress in identifying a supplier and costing for the print calendar.  And we’ve made sure that for the next few weeks (until the end of July), there will be history items every day on our home page.

New home page

We’ve come up with draft home pages in the new format for the last two remaining languages — French and Norwegian.

The week in review – 22-29 May

Campaigns: We launched two new campaigns this week and closed down one.

Our campaign in support of General Electric’s Erie, Pennsyslvania workers (organized by the UE), has already gotten over 7,500 messages sent in 9 languages with more to come.

The UK-only campaign we launched in support of outsourced workers at the University of London has gotten just under 1,200 messages.

In addition, we closed down the Turkey campaign after 3 months — a campaign which generated 12,700 messages making it one of the largest we’ve ever run. According to the ITUC, “KESK does consider it [our campaign] to be one of the elements in a whole joint effort which eventually led to the release of several dozens of trade unionists, even if 90 of them remain in jail to date.”

We now have a version of our campaigns that works really well on phones and tablets and expect to go live with it sometime today. (Read more here).

We discovered a problem on our campaigns page — it seemed that quite a large number of people were clicking on the ‘share on Facebook’ link but not actually sending off messages. It may be that the page design was flawed. This has now been fixed (read more here).

We helped the TUC with a special mailing to our UK list about their online campaign to pressure the Gap and Debenhams to sign up to the Bangladesh Accord.

News: We’ve made some fixes to our various pages, including these:

A country page (e.g., the UK) that is supposed to show one language (e.g., English) will now only show campaigns in that language.

On the French Canadian edition, we’ve now fixed some translation problems Andy reported.

We’ve made some steps forward on the Turkish and other editions getting them ready for launch using the new format for all languages.

We fixed a glitch that was sorting some news stories on the country pages in the wrong order, as Roy reported.

We also dealt with the problem of a state/province appearing on the wrong country page, discovered by Derek.

And finally, we made the photo of the day and the campaign photo appear on the front page with the same width for each one, so the page won’t appear to be lop-sided.

Berlin 2014: We’ve been in touch with the ITUC this week about coordinating our efforts.

Events: There have been some improvements to the Events module now displayed on the front page of country pages in English. (See here for example.)

We’re not showing old events anymore.

We have a link to show more events if there are any. (This page is being improved to look nicer.)

And we’re currently working on a link to submit events which will appear together with the events.

Publicity: I had articles in Stronger Unions (UK) and Our Times (Canada), both on labour themes. I’ve also been in touch with Equal Times (ITUC) and Neues Deutschland about articles on labour issues.

We’re running an ad campaign on Facebook now — here are the numbers so far: Ad seen by 37,747 people in the UK and Germany; 264 of them have liked our page, bringing the total number of likes up to 6,964.

Books: We’ve sold 251 copies of the Global Labour Movement book so far, plus 18 Kindle editions for a total of 269. This is a slower sale than our previous book, which sold more than 400 copies during the first month. We hope that bulk purchases from unions can help.

Fundraising: We just received a very generous donation of £5,000 from the ITF, and C$500 from Canadian labour lawyers.


Responsive design and our campaigns

“Responsive design” is a new buzz-word in the world of web design and was coined by Ethan Marcotte in this landmark article.

It basically means – your website should render correctly on every device, from the smallest mobile phone to a large screen television.  I’ve spent the last few days working on our campaigns and am very pleased to have made a breakthrough in the last 24 hours.

I still have a bit more tweaking to do, but basically if you go to it should look pretty normal on your desktop or laptop, but visit that on your phone or tablet, and it should look very different — one column, red top, etc.

If you want to test this on your phone, no need to type in that whole URL – use this shortcut:

The main reason to do this is because we know that a large number of our readers — possibly tens of thousands — are now using email on their mobile phones and tablets, and when we send a message saying we want them to support our campaign, and they click on the link, we want this new, single-column screen to come up so it’s easy for them to sign up to campaigns while sitting on a bus or in a cafe.

The next step is to fix this page so it renders well on the phone and then, of course, to change that URL by dropping the “_responsive” bit.

Edd has already begun work on the next stage — making sure our news pages also render correctly on phones and tablets.

The week in review – 7.5 – 14.5

Campaigns: The Bangladesh campaign is one of our very largest, with over 14,000 messages sent — we got a big boost from the British TUC which did an image that went viral and brought a lot of attention the campaign. We will probably close this soon as IndustriALL and UNI have made a lot of progress this week.

The Hong Kong campaign closed and we’ve asked about closing the Mexico campaign after three months — waiting to hear from IndustriALL about that one. We asked the RMT in the UK if we could close the “Justice for the 33” campaign and have been asked to continue to run with it for another month or so.

In addition to publicizing our own campaigns, we were asked to do mailings and promote Amnesty International’s new campaign in support of releasing jailed Bahraini teacher Mahdi, which we did. We also did a special promotion on Fiji for the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the ITUC.

On the technical side, we fixed some of the German text, got an Indonesian ActNOW newswire working, and have made more progress on the new campaigns database which will make our translators’ job considerably easier.

News home pages: Edd’s been working on some of the more complex language home pages which have not yet been moved over to the new format (Dutch, Polish); Eric will be completing work on the French version in the next few days. We fixed a lot of things on the country pages this week, including how campaigns appear (now showing the photo from the most recent campaign and horizontal lines to separate them); news stories that appear in the top 10 don’t repeat in the stories below; when a state/province/region appears in the headline (e.g., England), it now appears in a different colour (as it does in the list of stories); there’s now an ad for the new book on all the country pages in English; the “for more info” link now appears again on all stories where there’s something in that field.

Book 2: Sales are going well; we’ve sold 180 copies — 156 of them this week. We’ll begin work on a Kindle edition this week. Matt H. has volunteered to work on a German edition of this (and the previous book).

Berlin/Vancouver 2014: Edd’s been in touch with some German comrades and we’re making slow and steady progress. Derek is talking to comrades in Canada about a global solidarity conference there as well.

Mailing list: We had a problem with the latest version of our Sendy software — it was screwing up character encoding. This was now fixed.

CloudFlare: The adoption of CloudFlare, which we pay to ensure that our site is accessible everywhere at an improved speed, and which will keep us going even if we go offline for a while, has caused some teething pains. One of them was a delay in seeing the new photo of the day, which Derek has been posting. This has now been fixed.

Today in Labour History: I noticed that the word ‘more’ would appear even when there was no more; this has now been fixed. We have a lot more stories in the database now and a big thanks to Andy for translating so many of them into French.

Fund-raising: The ITF has pledged to donate something, and we’re expecting a donation from the RMT as well, which voted at its conference last year to support LabourStart. In addition, we’ve put in requests for grants for specific purposes to two UK-based charities — the Lipman-Miliband Trust and the Edge Fund.


The week in review – 30.4 – 6.5

May Day Party: Considering that this was the first time we’ve tried a real-world fundraiser, it has to be considered a success. The party was held on Saturday night at the Bread & Roses pub in Clapham, south London. David Cockroft, the outgoing general secretary of the ITF, spoke, as did Kirill Buketov of the IUF. (Cockroft’s speech was videoed and we’ll make it available when we have it.) In addition, we had speakers from the “3 Cosas” campaign organizing London cleaners and the RMT “Justice for the 33” campaign, and two entertainers — Dave Thorpe and The Ruby Kid. There were about 45 people there, and we raised £300 for LabourStart. Next year, let’s have LabourStart May Day fundraisers in a dozen cities around the world – start planning yours today.

Books 1, 2 and 3: The global labour movement – an introduction has now been published, we have 100 copies here in London, and today we’ll begin publicity. My personal goal is to sell more copies of this than book 1 (Campaigning online and winning) — we’ve distributed about 769 of those, of which 725 are actual sales. Andy has begun work on a French translation already. We already have plans for a third book — selected essays by former IUF general secretary Dan Gallin. One of those essays almost went into Book 2, but we felt it was more suited to a collection of Dan’s writings, which he’s agreed we can publish. His articles have appeared in book form in French and Russian, but not yet English. We’re putting in a request for financial support to do this to the Lipman-Miliband foundation.

Campaigns: We closed the KMU Philippines campaign after more than 3 months online. The Bangladesh campaign is already one of our largest with 10,649 messages sent as of this morning. We’re about to close down the last remaining UK-only campaign for the RMT. I’ve made steady progress on the transition to a MySQL database for campaigns – we can now show campaigns and add new ones, and we can migrate all campaigns from the old system. As I’ve mentioned before, this will not only lead to a more robust and secure system, but it will be MUCH easier for translators to do their work. It’s a big project and should take a couple more weeks to complete, including thorough testing.

LabourStart country pages: We’ve made a lot of improvements to the LabourStart Canada page and have much more work to do on others, such as the UK page.

Today in Labour History: Edd and others are working very hard to ensure that there’s something every day on the main global page and something every month for each of the key countries. This is an ongoing project and every LabourStart correspondent is invited to help out.