Category: Internationalization

Swedish LabourStart begins to take off

stockholmEspen Loken and Eric Lee spent two days in Stockholm this week as the guests of the the LO-TCO Secretariat of International Trade Union Development Co-operation to discuss the re-launch of LabourStart in Sweden.

Even though the Swedish labour movement is one of Europe’s most powerful (with well over three million members), LabourStart has never successfully been engaged there, and our mailing list is barely more than 200 (while in neighboring Norway, it’s nearly 3,000).  Early in the week we had 8 Swedish correspondents none of whom has been active recently.

The first day the Secretariat organized a two-hour workshop at the national headquarters of TCO, one of Sweden’s national trade union centers, which was attended by representatives of a number of unions including public sector workers and teachers.  As a result of that meeting, six new correspondents were signed up and the unions renewed their commitment to translating and promoting LabourStart campaigns.

The following day, Espen and Eric met with several staffers at LO (the other big trade union center) to discuss cooperation.  One idea which was floated (no commitments here yet) was to host the next (2016) LabourStart Global Solidarity Conference in Stockholm following the LO conference in May-June, which will also be attended by a number of international guests.  Yesterday afternoon, Eric had further meetings at the Secretariat and with staff at the food workers union.

As part of the process of reinvigorating our dormant Swedish site, we’ve had to make a number of tweaks and improvements to the site.  Meanwhile, our small Swedish mailing list has started to grow, picking up 10% more subscribers in just the last two months.

The month in review – October 2014

This report will be brief, but I hope I’ll be covering all the highlights of the month.

Next generation LabourStart: Our Android app is ready, and I’m making some final tweaks before submitting it to the Google Play store and elsewhere, and then publicizing it widely. I do think this is a huge step forward for us, we’ve gotten good feedback from those who’ve seen it, and mobile apps like this one are increasingly going to be our main platform.

2015 Retreat: We now have an organizing committee of 7 people, and have been putting together the basic elements. We’ll have a Skype conference call in November and will begin inviting people then.

Campaigns: We only launched two campaigns in October (as compared to 5 in September) — for the trade union at WIPO (5,813 supporters) and for workers at Zara in the USA (5,004 supporters). More campaigns are on the way, including another one from the ITF.  We gave a lot of help at the beginning of the month to IndustriALL, which was doing a Thunderclap on precarious work.

Fundraising: Some good news this month as the National Executive of Unison in the UK votes to give us £3,000 and the Norwegian union Industrie Energie votes to donate $5,000. In addition, Kevin Curran’s marathon run for us generated £1,202 (71 individual contributors).

Internationalization: We’re doing a lot of work to make sure the languages we campaign in and post news in stay alive, even when individuals who were doing the work drift away.  Big efforts were made to recruit new correspondents in Denmark and Finland this month with good results in the latter country.  Italian remains our biggest mailing list that is not getting regular mailings, so we appealed this week to our entire Italian list producing dozens of volunteer translators.

The week in review – 8-17 March 2014

Berlin conference: We’re up to 448 registered participants from 68 countries, a gain of 28 in the last 10 days. (We now have 91 from Germany, a gain of 7.) We’re all working on a wide range of issues now, including the conference party on Saturday night, plenary speakers for all 3 plenary sessions, getting visa invitation letters, getting all the workshops set up, and much more. There’ll even be a conference poster!

Campaigns: We launched one new campaign in the last 10 days in support of call center workers in Casablanca; it’s done very well and after just four days, is already larger than the three previous campaigns. With just under 7,000 messages sent already, it looks poised to be our 4th largest current campaign (out of 10) sometime soon.

News: I’ve written to nearly 600 LabourStart correspondents today asking for their help to put more news up. Of the more than 700 correspondents we have, only 76 have posted news so far this month. A number have already written back promising to post news, or asking for new passwords. There’s now a big yellow ‘Add news’ button on the home page in English — this allows correspondents to quickly add news, for new people to volunteer to be correspondents, and for one-off submissions of news.

New languages: We’re just about to do our first campaign in Hungarian.

Books: Our next book (by Dan Gallin) will be ready for sale at the conference in May. We did a lot of work last week formatting it. It’s currently running at 423 pages, but we might shorten that.

Labour History: I’ve fixed the entry form so it’s now working correctly and we can add more dates to our online calendar. There’s now a list of French language entries in the database.

The weeks in review – 21 Feburary – 7 March 2014

Berlin conference:  The list of participants continues to grow — two weeks ago we had 352 registrants from 58 countries; today that’s 420 from 68 countries.  The number coming from Germany is now 84, up from 77.  The team in Berlin is doing a fantastic job, meeting regularly and building up a solid programme of workshops and plenaries.  We’ve now begun weekly Skype conference calls involving myself, Derek and Gisela and this will continue in the run-up to the event.  We are doing a monthly mailing to all those who registered and in last week’s mailing we made a special appeal for people to volunteer as interpreters.  Our volunteer translators have begun translating the conference website into Spanish (as well as English and German), and the registration form now works in 8 languages.  And we now have a donations page in German (in the hope that our raised profile in the German labour movement may help generate donations).  The ITUC has agreed to promote our conference in their next mailing to delegates to their upcoming world congress in Berlin.

Campaigns:  We launched four new campaigns in the last two weeks after a period of relative calm.  Here they are (with the current number of supporters in brackets): Korea [7,178], Bangladesh [4,007], Peru [838], and Canada [508].  The last of these is a Canada-only campaign; all the others are global.  We closed down the Sri Lanka campaign today and the USA (First Energy) campaign last week.  We’re hoping to launch a Ukraine campaign in the next few days.  Finally, our French language ActNOW RSS feed is greatly improved, with French text replacing the English that remained there.

New languages: We’ve had an offer to translate LabourStart into Hindi which is great, and something we’ve wanted for a very long time.  Now that we have a Hungarian language edition, we need correspondents, so I wrote to all the Hungarians I could find on our English language mailing list — and the first of them has now volunteered to be a correspondent.

Books:  Andy completed the translation into French of our second book (global labour movements) which is now on sale at Amazon, CreateSpace, etc.  He did a mailing to our French language list which generated a lot of interest (nearly 50 sales in the first few days), and it appears that we’ll need to have copies of all our books, in English and French, in Berlin for sale to delegates.  We’re also working hard on Dan Gallin’s book in order to get it ready well in advance of the Berlin conference — at which we’ll have book launch with Dan speaking.

My new contact details: Please note that I am contactable in many ways, but no longer at the old phone number.  I’ve written up what I’m doing and why and encourage LabourStart correspondents to use email where possible, and in urgent cases only, to use Telegram or Skype to reach me.

The weeks in review – 7-20 February 2014

berlin-logo-300Berlin conference:  We’ve made lots of progress on a wide range of issues, most of the work having been done by the organizing committee in Berlin.

We’re now up to 352 registered participants from 58 countries with the largest groups coming from Germany (77), the UK (49) and Nigeria (31).

Because of the very large number of people who’ve signed up to come from Africa, we’ve actually done a mailing to all of them and have recruited some new correspondents.  We’ve also been warned that some of these will not be representatives of genuine independent and democratic trade unions and are showing caution in who gets invitation letters (to get a visa into Germany).

Because of number of registrants we did consider moving the conference to a larger venue, but the majority of members of the organizing committee decided to stick with our current venue.

We’re still putting together the agenda, organizing solidarity housing for the 147 registrants who requested it, working on the visas, dealing with interpretation into the various languages, and much more.

Only 3 months to go!

Campaigns:

  • It seems like we’re about to launch a new campaign in support of workers in Korea — details coming soon.
  • We were going to close down the Sri Lanka campaign today, after three months, but IndustriALL has requested an extension.
  • We received a lovely email from the union at the Labatt brewery where our campaign helped them win their very long strike — and we emailed our entire list about this win.
  • We also received a message updating the Huber Ballesteros campaign (see below).
  • We closed two campaigns — Mexico and a UK-only campaign but haven’t gotten updates back from either union.  It’s very important that unions which request campaigns from us report back to us on a regular basis and particularly when a campaign ends.

New language: We now have LabourStart in Hungarian — with some news already added by our only senior correspondent who speaks the language …

News interface: Now available in Italian for our Italian-speaking correspondents.

MailChimp: We’ve had our first mailings done by users other than me (which I need to approve) and these have been successful.  It’s great to share the load here.

Donations: I’ve now fixed the donations page so that if you’re donating in US dollars, the USA becomes your default country; if in Australian dollars, Australia is your default country, and so on.  This had been causing problems for some Americans trying to donate by credit card via PayPal.

The week in review – 10-17.1.14

Campaigns:

  • The Cambodia campaign is doing very well — after just a week, we’re up to well over 10,000 messages sent, making it our second largest current campaign (Kazakhstan is the largest).
  • We just launched a campaign yesterday in defense of Colombian unions; it picked up some 4,300 supporters in the 24 hours online.
  • We closed the previous Colombia campaign just in time after it ran for three full months.  Huber is, unfortunately, still in jail.

Berlin 2014:

  • I participated on Saturday in a very good meeting with four members of our organizing committee in Berlin.  Gisela and I also agreed a number of changes to LabourStart’s German language page, some of which have been done.  These include some new pages about LabourStart, a registration form for new correspondents, and so on.
  • The total number of people registered is now 280, up 20 in the last week.  Of those, 59 are from Germany and 42 from the UK (meaning that of those 20 new ones, 7 come from the UK and Germany).
  • I wrote to the more than 100 people who’ve requested help getting a visa to clarify once again that we cannot help with airfares and to ask for some more details; about 19 have responded so far.
  • The TUC is offering us a room to convene a meeting of people from the UK who have registered, or are thinking about coming to Berlin; we’ll hold this in February.
  • We’re doing a lot of targetting of specific countries; Tom is doing some work focussing on the closest neighbours to Berlin: Poland, the Czech Republic and Denmark.
  • I contacted the ITUC two days ago asking for a meeting when I’m in Brussels but no answer yet.
  • I fixed the link to the conference on our home pages in all languages — it now points to the right place.

LabourStart Books:

  • Dan Gallin has sent us 12 essays with 3 more to come; we’re exploring new ways to produce this as we’re not happy with CreateSpace’s service and will probably use Lulu (who did our calendar).  Our aim is the get the book out fairly quickly and certainly well in advance of the Berlin conference.

Correspondents:

  • I continue with weekly mailings; this time, I aimed to encourage yet again inactive correspondents.  After 24 hours, we saw a result — a 10% increase in the number of correspondents posting news (up from 78 to 85 this month) and increase in stories (up by 326 in just one day — the previous daily average was just 167).
  • We added several new correspondents this week.

French LabourStart:

  • We continue to make progress, having made at least half a dozen fixes this week.  Some of them are small fixes to all languages and are contributing to making the site more useful for non-English speakers.

Canadian LabourStart:

  • I moved some things around on the page at Derek’s request; it looks better now.

Country pages:

  • I’ve fixed the search, which now always brings up the new pages.
  • I’ve also created a search on all languages, which we had on the old site but hadn’t preserved.

Fundraising:

  • It’s been a week since we launched our quarterly appeal to “power users” (people who’ve supported 3 or more campaigns in the last year).  Results have been good — we’ve taken in just over £4,000 in donations this week.  This is similar to how we did last April, and probably better than the two appeals since then.

Travel:

  • I’ll be travelling for most of the next two weeks — all of next week in Istanbul as a guest of KESK, to participate in the opening of the trial of their activists.  The following week I’ll be in Geneva and then Brussels.  This may mean slower response times to emails, but I hope you’ll all understand.

Korean unions show the way

koreanrailwayworkers

One of my ongoing gripes is that unions that ask LabourStart for campaigns sometimes do very little to promote them to their own members.  An opportunity to bring members of a new union, or even a new country, into the network of people who regularly support our campaigns is therefore missed.

In the past, I’ve chided some of our Korean comrades for this and in the last week we’ve seen a complete turnaround.  The Korean teachers union and the railway workers union have mobilized members and supporters in their own ranks, in their own country, and these have been added to the thousands from outside Korea to support our current campaigns.

The result is that our Korean language mailing list has grown ten-fold almost overnight, from just over 150 (where it had languished for months) to 1,646 this morning.  It has gone from being our 21st largest language to being our 9th.

The real test will be what happens when we mail to this list about a non-Korean campaign – for example, our current campaign on Kazakhstan.  Will we see a strong response?  We’ll try to test this later today.

The week in review – 17-23 September

As I’ll be away for much of the time for the next week, I thought I’d do a slightly early update of the last week.  Some highlights …

Campaigns

  • We launched two new LabourStart global campaigns in the last three days — in defense of Honduran trade union leader Victor Crespo, and in support of unions representing staff at the United Nations.  The first of these had almost 6,300 supporters after 3 days; the second had over 4,000 in just 6 hours.
  • We closed down two of our campaigns — the UK-only campaign in support of cleaners at the University of London, and the formerly-Canadian-only, later global campaign in support of workers at the Labatt brewery.
  • We gave an extra boost to our John Greyson campaign after hearing about his hunger strike.
  • In addition, we did a mailing to promote two major new IUF campaigns focussing on Colombia and Honduras.
  • Last week I was invited to UNISON to discuss with them how they could use their new app for smartphones to push LabourStart campaigns out to their members.

News & Correspondents

  • Search is now working on our home page in all languages once again.
  • I did a second weekly mailing to all our correspondents.
  • We now have a translation of our interface into Icelandic, but no volunteer correspondents have stepped forward there yet.
  • We did, however, pick up new volunteer correspondents in Denmark and Finland.

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.

Campaigns:

  • 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.

News:

  • 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.

Correspondents: 

  • 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.

Internationalization:

  • 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.

The last three weeks in review – 14 August – 5 September 2013

August is traditionally a quiet time and I was away for most of the month. Nevertheless, we’ve made progress on a number of fronts.

Campaigns: We’ve won a great victory at the Toronto Plaza hotel and were praised by the United Steelworkers for the work we did. Another of our previously Canada-only campaigns has gone live — we’re supporting the union demand to released jailed Canadian film-maker and union activist John Greyson, who is being held in Egypt.

Berlin 2014: We’ve announced the date and are slowly informing people about it. We’re not rushing this out just yet as some people will be wanting to get invitation letters to apply for visas to Germany and we’re not yet ready for (we’ll want a partner union there first). The committee in Berlin has already met a couple of times. I’m planning a first visit to Berlin in late October. I with spoke with ITUC staffers who are in charge of their congress and ours will follow immediately after theirs. It looks like we already have a venue for our event, which is great as still have about 8 months to go. One of the members of our Berlin committee is visiting London and we’ll meet on Saturday.

Twitter: We reached a milestone of 10,000 followers on 26 August. Twitter cards now working (see the explanation below).

Books: We have a new publications page advertising all our books and sales are probably just over 1,500 in the first 8 months. We’re working to finish the third book in the next few days, and are discussing one more for later this year and some options for next year. CreateSpace is still not being great about payments, but we hope to have this sorted out very soon.

Calendar: The LabourStart Calendar for 2014 is now done — we’ve ordered one copy to have a look at it before we go public with it. It’s a beautiful design and kudos to Edd for all the work he put into it.

Photo of the day: There’s a brand-new feature — we’ll now be able to pre-load photos for future dates, and to archive the ones we’ve run.  Derek is currently testing.

Internationalization: The Italian and Portuguese editions have been revived. We expect to spend quite a bit of time on building up the Portuguese edition and have secured some pledges of funding for this. The translators’ mailing list is now considerably larger with all languages covered and our campaigns are now routinely appearing in a large number of languages, with mailing lists growing as well.

News database: When correspondents login now, they can see their default country and language and the next step is to allow them to change these whenever they want. So if you regularly post news about, say, Canada, but suddenly have a lot of news stories from the USA, you will be able to change your default country on a temporary basis.

Travel: The next two months will see me travelling to speak at a number of trade union events. These includes separate trips to Geneva, Brussels, Cardiff, Berlin, and Kiev.