New campaign launched in support of Turkish clothing workers

It’s been two-and-a-half weeks since I last updated this blog, so, apologies for that. It’s been a busy time — keep reading …

We launched a major new campaign in support of workers in Turkey who are being sacked for joining a trade union by a German clothing business, Roy Robson. After less than a week online, the campaign appears in 15 languages and has 5,853 supporters. One of our German supporters received an interesting reply from the company, which he shared with us — and which we shared with IndustriALL, whose campaign this is. Meanwhile, the company has attempted to block our messages, but we retain the option of a petition version, which we will deliver to them, even if they’re not letting individual messages through by email. We publicised on social media the fact that they were trying to block us.

The Georgia campaign which we launched just three weeks ago continues to grow. It’s now up to 5,983 supporters in 19 languages. Over 400 of those supporters were responding to the Georgian language version of the campaign. We re-discovered a problem with this campaign and have noted to avoid it in future: sometimes, when the default message text is long, we need to break it up into shorter paragraphs, otherwise some servers reject this and we get error messages.

We also had a problem with some translations of campaigns not reaching us through the usual online form. We dealt with this by storing the translations on the server as well as sending them by email, so they are not lost. This appears to now work and we have not missed any translations since then.

We heard from the Georgian union which asked us to run the previous campaign (Rustavi Azot). Here is what they reported to us: “During the entire year 2017, the company conducted a very strong pressure against the trade union organization using various means. In fact, it was a fierce battle waged against local leaders and unfortunately, they could not resist. The company destroyed the trade union, but plenty of dedicated people still remain there and, in the future, they will restart the struggle and restore the organization. The international support received through the LabourStart was of huge help to our members. When you are supported by an army of people of more than 7,000 people, this is a very big incentive and motivation. Thanks to all of you, thanks to LabourStart, thanks to IndustriALL Global Union.

We’re continuing efforts to revive dormant languages, with some success. We sent out our first mailing to our Finnish list in several years, now that we have volunteer translators again for that language. We’re currently trying to get a volunteer translator for Thai. And we’re continuing with Japanese, Swedish and other languages that we had not been using for some time.

Next month is the Labor Notes conference in Chicago, at which LabourStart will have a stall. Derek Blackadder is coordinating our effort there. This is an important event, which will have well over 2,000 participants. We’ve shipped over copies of our most recent book (on organising migrant workers), have prepared a special flyer and website, and are arranging for the ILO to ship over copies of their new book on improving trade union communications which includes a positive reference to LabourStart.

We continue to try to recruit new subscribers to the mailing lists — this is now a regular weekly effort and includes reminders on social media, as well as the occasional pop-up window on our website.

Our mailing lists continue to grow. In the last couple of weeks we added 485 addresses of campaign supporters. Most of these are added to our new Georgian language list.

We’re going to continue with regular (probably monthly) “explainers” — mailings to our list with 500 word articles by local experts. The first one was by Derek on the split in the Canadian trade unions. For our second one, we’re hoping for a US writer (we’ve already approached one) to explain the Janus case before the Supreme Court.

We’ve had a request for RSS versions of our US state newswires, so we’re working on that. We already have this in JavaScript format, but RSS works better for some.

Finally, in the UK, we’re being given an award this coming weekend by the Ron Todd Foundation. Ron Todd was the general secretary of the TGWU, a forerunner of today’s Unite the Union. We invited UK supporters of LabourStart to attend the event at the Marx Memorial Library in London.


New campaign launched in support of Georgian unions – and in the Georgian language too

We launched a new campaign last week in support of the Georgian trade union movement which is fighting for a better labour law. For the first time, we are running the campaign in the Georgian language as well.  (See the screenshot on the left.)

The campaign is already live in seven languages with more to come, and has over 3,700 supporters.

We also closed the earlier Georgian campaign in support of metal workers there. Launched in November, it had 7,373 supporters and appeared in 18 languages – but not Georgian. We haven’t yet heard back from the local union on what effect it may have had.

Thanks to our new volunteer translators, we are running the Email Abdi (Iran) campaign in Japanese and Polish. It will be great to get those languages going again as we already have substantial mailing lists. We hope to also have campaigns live in Thai thanks to a new volunteer. And next week, we’ll begin the effort to revive our Arabic language campaigns as well.

Many more correspondents are now active following an appeal we sent out recently, our first direct message to our correspondents in a long time. We had 57 active correspondents this month, up from just 40 a couple of weeks ago.

We’ve heard from a group of our activists in Australia who have promised to recruit new correspondents and to try to do some of the work which Andrew Casey has done all these years.

To try to encourage people to join up to our English-language mailing list, we posted to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and added a pop-up advert on the country news pages. This has generated very few new subscribers.

Our Russian language Twitter feed is being revived – thanks to Kirill. And our French language feed is no longer protected and we’ll be seeking volunteers to help Andy with this. We were also able to gain control over the Australian LabourStart Twitter account which Andrew had set up and run, and have asked our local correspondents there to take this over.

We’re getting ready to participate in the Labor Notes conference in Chicago in April and have prepared a leaflet which we will be distributing there. We also have an advert in the conference programme and a team of volunteers which Derek is organising. We’ll have a table to distribute our publications, and to sign people up to our campaigns. This is a very important conference, with thousands of attendees, and is a great opportunity to introduce LabourStart to a North American audience.

Finally, we’ve won another award in the UK but I cannot reveal any details until it is made public in the next few days.


Mass mailings with a difference, new correspondents, revived language editions and more

The main news story for us last week was the sudden passing of our friend and comrade Andrew Casey. (See the the stories below for our obituary, shared with LabourStart’s English language mailing list, and a video of Andrew’s first – and last – speech.)

We’ve begun a series of mass mailings, probably one per month, which will not focus just on a campaign, but on news and analysis. (This is one more way in which LabourStart is not a clicktivist organisation.) The first such message is a 500-word piece by Derek Blackadder about the split in the Canadian labour movement. It got a lot of feedback, and was a good thing. We’re open to your ideas about what subjects we should cover and who should write these short, 500-word pieces (with links of course).

This week we added four new correspondents, one from Australia, one from India and two from Georgia. That’s a total of six new correspondents in three weeks. I’ve decided to resume doing regular (probably monthly) mailings to all correspondents. If any of you have any thoughts about this — things we could be saying — please let me know.

We continue to revive our dormant language editions, and following the success with Finnish and Swedish, last week we recruited a new translator for Polish. Next week, we’ll focus on Japanese.

Finally, our mailing lists continue to grow, despite not having new campaigns. We picked up 105 new subscribers this week.


Hello, Sweden, Finland and Poland. We’d like to introduce ourselves …

Turning the map of Europe red.

Reviving dormant languages: As you may recall, we’re going to devote time each week to reinvigorating editions of LabourStart that have become dormant in recent years. Our first three weeks in 2018 we have focussed on Swedish, Finnish and — from this morning — Polish. The results are excellent so far: 4 campaigns already live in Swedish and Finnish for the first time in a long time, 2 mailings already done and two more on the way, and 13 new volunteer translators in Sweden and Finland.

Esmail Abdi: Our new campaign in support of the jailed Iranian teacher trade unionist, launched last week, had 3,500 supporters six days ago — and is now up to over 5,800. This morning I wrote to over 71,000 people who were sent our mailing last week in English but who have not yet responded. This should lead to some more growth. We also updated our English list this week with reports about the victory in Fiji, the continuing crisis in Algeria and the IUF’s campaign against Coca-Cola in Indonesia.

Strengthening our display of country news: It was pointed out to us that in the Norwegian edition, if you looked for news from Fiji, you’d see nothing because there had been no news stories in Norwegian. We were asked to automatically include English news stories in the Norwegian country news pages, and have now done so. If your language is in that category — i.e., nearly everyone in your country reads English — we can fix this for you too.

We gave a lot of publicity on social media to the IFJ’s annual report on the killing of journalists, the calls on the ILO to do something about Fiji and the giant metal workers strike set to happen in Turkey.

Our mailing lists continue to grow. This week, we added 334 new subscribers to 11 of our lists.

We continue to get a number of individual donations and we should never forget the generosity of many trade unionists who give money every month to LabourStart. In January, these small donors contributed GBP 913.87.


Esmail Abdi is NOT free, he’s now back in Evin prison – and we launch a new campaign

Bad news: Esmail Abdi (pictured left) was free, but he is now back in Evin Prison. We launched a new LabourStart campaign three days ago at the request of the Education International, and within about 24 hours we had over 3,500 messages of protest sent to Iran.  Many more will go out in the next few days.

Meanwhile, our Fiji campaign which we just launched has come to an end – with a victory for the workers and an end to the lockout. Just under 8,000 people signed up to support that campaign, which was online for about one month and was translated into 19 languages — three of those translations were done after the campaign closed.

We added 51 new subscribers to our mailing lists, many of them in Arabic (due to the Algeria campaign which has over 9,300 supporters and still growing)..

We’ve done a lot of work to revive LabourStart in languages where we’ve not been active in recent years. The first two are Swedish and Finnish, and we’ve found more than 10 new translators and you’ll begin seeing the fruits of their work in the next few days. We have 1,886 subscribers on our Swedish and Finnish mailing lists, so it’s important to keep those people — and new ones we recruit — involved in our campaigns and receiving our mailings.

We add one new correspondent in Canada. We closed an old, inactive Canada-only campaign.  And do all the other, usual stuff, like backing up our files, answering correspondence, raising money, and so on.


Over 6,000 supporters for our Iran campaign – our 4th campaign in August

Jailed trade union leaders in Iran.

New campaign: On 28 August, we launched a new campaign — a joint effort by the Education International and the International Transport Workers Federation — in support of jailed trade unionists in Iran. As I write these words, the campaign has 6,119 supporters.

Mailing lists: We added 569 new subscribers to 15 of our mailing lists; 360 of those were to the English list.

Translations: We have a new volunteer translator for Indonesian. Our Dutch translator has asked for help and we’ve suggested ways to cope with ever-larger numbers of campaigns. It looks like some of our other translators are struggling to cope as we launch more campaigns than ever in August.

Georgia: Eric will speak next week at the Georgian Trade Union Confederation congress. We have been helping publicise statements by the GTUC and its international partners following up on a government crackdown on independent unions, and hunger strike by railway workers.

IUF: We participated in the IUF’s 27th congress all of last week, posting a great deal of material on social media and the website. This was also an opportunity to hold informal discussions with other GUF leaders, and leading trade unionists from a number of countries.

McDonald’s: On the eve of the first-ever strike by McDonald’s workers in the UK, we participated in the demo at the corporate headquarters in north London — and posted many photos to Facebook and Twitter.


Somalia campaign closes; we support Iranian sugar workers

We closed the Somalia campaign after three months and 5,920 supporters. We’re waiting to hear what effect, if any, our campaign had.
We also did a mass mailing to promote the IUF’s campaign in support of Haft Tapeh sugar workers in Iran, as well as promoting extensively on social media.

Site redesign:
I’m pleased to report that we’re moving forward with a web design cooperative in London, and have discussed a number of changes they will make to modernise and refresh LabourStart. They’ve done some outstanding websites for progressive groups and unions, and are offering their services on a pro bono basis.

I had a long meeting at the TUC with their head of digital, John Wood, and we discussed ongoing cooperation.
I contacted the union official tasked with organising Uber drivers in the UK to see how we can help with their campaign.

We’ve picked up 510 new likes for our Turkish page (a tripling of the number) in just a few days this week thanks to our new ad campaign. We’ve informed 34,960 Turkish Facebook users about LabourStart at minimal cost. The campaign will run for a full month and it looks like after we’re done, our page will have several thousand likes.
Our ad campaign to promote LabourStart TV’s page ended after we picked up 151 new likes, having shown the ad to 4,767 Facebook users in the USA. We’ll probably resume this later this year.

Indonesian language:
We urgently need someone to translate our campaigns and mailings, and fortunately someone has now stepped forward. Indonesian is now one of our largest mailing lists.

We added one new correspondent, from Canada.

Mailing lists:
Due to a lack of new campaigns, we’ve added only 1 new person to our lists this week.


LabourStart TV revived

LabourStart TV:
We now have a Facebook page  to help promote our videos (and the web page itself); at the moment Derek and I are the administrators and we can add videos, but others are welcome to join us. The page has 146 likes at the moment, but this will grow quickly.
The page on LabourStart itself has been turned into a live feed of all news stories using video — in English only, but with a plan to roll this out for all other languages shortly. A lot of old stuff has now been removed from that redesigned page.

We have been approached about a possible campaign in support of Chinese workers in Saipan.
I’ve also had to do a slight design of how we use campaign images on the LabourStart home page; for some languages, that had meant a blank left column — this is now fixed.
We’ve been offered a chance to try out something called PostBug which will allow some campaign supporters to send a paper version of their protest message by snail mail, through a website.

UnionBook: At their request, we have transferred the entire archive to the International Institute for Social History in Amsterdam.

Indonesian: I continue to pursue translators to ensure that we can regularly translate our campaigns and mail to our Indonesian language list — our third largest list.

Esperanto: The magazine of SAT, the global left-wing Esperanto movement, has sent me some interview questions. They will shortly be running an article about LabourStart.

Correspondents: We’ve added another new correspondent from India.

Mailing lists: We added 199 addresses this — 66 of those to the English list, 22 to the Dutch, and 111 to other lists. This is four times as many people as we added to our lists last week.

Site redesign: We have a meeting scheduled with our friends at a workers’ coop in London which has offered to help us out with this. More details soon.


Weekly round-up: We lost this round of the asbestos fight – but the struggle continues


After just one month, we closed down the Asbestos campaign which we ran with APHEDA; this was a fight we lost — for now. But the campaign itself got over 7,000 supporters in a short time, and appeared in a number of languages we have not usually featured including Japanese, Indonesian, Hindi, etc.

More work was done on the pass-it-on feature (sharing campaigns by email); it’s now been tested in a number of languages. In the next few weeks, we will move to get versions working in English and French as well. There are still some issues to be worked out.

We’ve asked for permission to close the Iran campaign (Esmail Abdi) which has been running now for more than six months.


Dutch: We have another new volunteer translator, and as a result our Kazakhstan campaign is now also available in Dutch.

Esperanto: We’ve ended a 12-day-long ad campaign on Facebook which introduced LabourStart to 11,920 Esperanto speakers, 288 of whom visited this special page .
The Esperanto list, though small, has the highest rate of response to our campaigns — as high as 19.1% for the DNO Yemen campaign. That means that 1 in 5 people on the list clicked to support the campaign. By comparison, the response rate on the English list for that campaign was just 4.8%.

German: We are now caught up here with all mailings and campaigns, having done a mailing regarding the Somalia campaign. Our German list — like our Dutch — is very responsive to our appeals, and has been growing quite quickly.

Korean: The last remaining campaign and mailing which had not been translated has now been done. Thanks to our new volunteer translators, this is the first time we have had a complete set of our current campaigns available to the Korean labour movement.


We’re going to start sending out copies of our most recent book, on migrant workers, to review editors at various progressive and labour publications. The admin stuff is all done, all we need are the addresses to send to. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.


This week we’ve used our top stories feature and social media to highlight, among other things, the historically low level of strikes in Finland, the story of an Algerian trade unionist facing prison, Canada’s decision to ratify the last of the ILO core conventions, and IG Metall’s fight with Elon Musk in Germany.

We also did a special mailing to our Canadian list on the 25th anniversary of a mining disaster.

Mailing lists:

With no new campaigns, growth to the lists has inevitably slowed. Only 93 new subscribers were added this week. Our little Vietnamese language list has doubled in size, due to the Asbestos campaign.

Next week:

As I’ll be travelling with very limited Internet access, I won’t update this page until Friday, 26 May.


Weekly roundup: Dutch, Hindi, Korean and Tagalog campaigns, mailings revived

The focus this week has been on expanding our reach to ever-larger audiences of trade unionists around the world.

An appeal to our supporters of English-language campaigns who don’t come from English language countries has resulted in a flood of new translators and new translations for long-dormant languages — in some cases languages where we have fairly large mailing lists. This includes Dutch, Tagalog, Hindi, and Korean. We also have new volunteers for Arabic, Swedish and Malay and are awaiting our first translations into those languages for a while. And we’re almost caught up now with our German language campaigns and mailings.

A review of how the “pass it on” feature works (where you share a campaign by email) shows that it was used 36 times to send to many dozens of potential supporters in the previous week. I’ve put out a request for translations of the “pass it on” texts to our major languages, nearly all of which were received within a few hours (thanks translators!). We’ll now fully internationalise this, and then we’ll restore it to the English language version of our campaigns, taking precautions to ensure that it’s secure.
An appeal for supporters of the campaigns involving jailed trade unionists (Kazakhstan, Turkey) sent out to the English list and via social media on May Day generated a good response as 1,301 new messages were sent on that day.
Our Turkey (TUMTIS) campaign has now become our first campaign for a long time to get more than 10,000 supporters — helped over the top by our new Dutch language campaign.
The Liberia campaign which ran for an unprecedented 7 months has now been closed, following several extensions. But we’ve not yet heard how this turned out.

Mailing lists:
278 new subscribers were added to our English, German, French, Italian, Turkish, Esperanto and Spanish lists. This is not bad for a week in which we launched no new campaigns.

We used our news service and social media to promote a number of specific things this week — including the oil workers strike in Nigeria, an ITUC statement on the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike, and May Day around the world.

We’ve been informed of a substantial donation coming from the Norwegian union IndustrieEnergie and from the British Columbia Teachers Federation.

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