The Labour Movement and the Internet: News, Updates and Corrections - November 1996
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The Labour Movement and the Internet

News, Updates and Corrections
November 1996

Friday, 29 November 1996

New Study: Trade Union Movement and Internet

The British trade union Web site, Labournet, has posted for all to see and read a large study just completed by Marie Dancsok on trade union use of the Internet (including full color pie charts!). Dancsok's recommendations to the trade union movement include:

  • Education and training of all union leadership, at a local or national level, is necessary to develop and strategies the networking of computers.

  • When developing a computer networking system, one should start at a local level, in order to demonstrate to the membership with how the unions dues are being allocated.

  • Priority of funding to Computerization needs to be established.

  • Using all the resources available is also needed to have a developed computer information service.

  • Linking with each other as well as with non-unions who are working towards equal rights, environmental issues and human rights issues, will also aid in developing a solid network of people working together.

  • Further research could be developed to establish why trade unions are not utilizing computers as a communication tool.

Wednesday, 27 November 1996

Labour Use of USENET Newsgroups Grows

In Chapter 2 of The Labour Movement and the Internet: The New Internationalism I wrote that trade union use of USENET newsgroups was limited to only one such group, alt.society.labor-unions. And that was indeed the case until very recently. Two more trade union newsgroups have just appeared: alt.union.iatse and alt.union.natl-writers. In addition to these, the Institute for Global Communications' LaborNet is now serving up its own conferences as newsgroups (meaning you can read them using any News Reader, including Netscape Navigator—and you don't need special codes and instructions). These groups are being served up by LaborNet's own news server, accessible from the LaborNet home page. The catch, however, is that you need an account name and password to access these groups.

Monday, 25 November 1996

CMC Magazine Devotes Issue to Labour and Internet

That's right. An entire magazine on the subject—and it's about time!

CMC (Computer Mediated Communications) Magazine has devoted the entire November 1996 issue to the subject of labour online.

Contents include:

  • Editor's Page: Amelia DeLoach introduces this special issue focusing on labor online. While it has not proven to be a magic bullet for organizing or protesting, the Net nonetheless has been used effectively as tool for labor organizations to publicize their views.

  • Sending a Strike Message in a Bottle: Greg Dropkin describes how the Web site for Britain's Mersey Docks workers has augmented their strike efforts. They discovered, however, that the Net does not replace personal contact when it comes to seeking support for their cause. In a companion article, Chris Bailey tells the story about how the Web effort came about and the effect it had with the online union community.

  • Unions, the Rank-and-File, and the Internet: While admitting that online communication benefits some union groups, IATSE member and long-time Internet user Allen Schaaf tells first hand how internal politics and an union's use of CMC can intensify mistrust between the leadership and the rank-and-file.

  • How the Web Industry is Working its Way out of a Golden Age: They work 60-hour weeks and survive on a diet of Skittles and Jolt. So, why aren't Web workers clamoring to unionize? Lisa Schmeiser explores this question and discovers the answer has its roots in class issues.

  • Shaping a Web for Inclusion: PASA member and Web developer Andrew Dunn profiles his union, the organization's communication needs, and how it developed a Web to meet those needs without excluding the non-Internet using members.

  • The Last Link: Being Online: Amelia DeLoach draws together the content from this month's issue to examine labor's presence online: How do labor unions use the Internet? How effective is this use?

Saturday, 23 November 1996

International Labour Organisation Gets New Web Site, Domain Name

Correction to Appendix 1 of book. Potentially the greatest resource for trade unionists on the Internet, the International Labour Organisation was among the last to make the commitment and dive into the new technology. The organization has a domain name of its own now ( and its home page URL has changed to: The ILO site includes labour standards and human rights, publications, ILO Press (books), vacancies (looking for work in the labour movement?), meetings and conferences, etc. Well worth a visit.

Thursday, 21 November 1996

New Address for Labour Supersite in USA

Correction to Appendix 1 of book. The US-based LaborNet (part of the Institute for Global Communications) has an outstanding Web site, including one of the most comprehensive lists of "unions and organizations on the information superhighway". Their new URL is

Tuesday, 19 November 1996

An End to Proprietary Online Labour Networks?

For more than a decade, two competing global trade union networks—the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and Poptel (based in the UK) offered online access to trade unionists and other progressive groups—but if you were reading conferences or bulletin boards in one network, you couldn't read them in the other.

For years, the two groups tried to find ways to allow members of each other's network to share conferences, without much success. (All this is discussed in some detail in my book.)

Recently, the World Wide Web has offered a way out—as Poptel found a technique to allow Web surfers who had previously been excluded from the various trade union bulletin boards to read the content of those boards through a Web site interface.

A good example of how this is done is to be found at the web site of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), which announced the service in mid-September with the following press release:

The ICFTU is launching a daily news service on the Internet for the world trade union movement.

ICFTU OnLine features short topical stories giving up-to-date news on international labour issues. The stories will be updated daily as news comes in, giving trade unionists the very latest information available. ICFTU OnLine can be reached via Poptel, and for Internet users via the World Wide Web. Point your browser at (There will be a link to ICFTU OnLine from the ICFTU's Home page on the World Wide Web, which is currently being redesigned.)

For further information, contact the ICFTU Press and Publications Department: phone ++32 2 224 0210, or email us on

Luc Demaret

Head of the ICFTU Press and Publications Department.

Sunday, 17 November 1996

More Online Attacks on Labour Web Sites . . .

Is this the beginning of class cyber-warfare?

The following report, which we took off Solinet, originates at the International Transport Workers' Federation -- another pioneer user of computer communications in the labour movement.

TO ITF mailing lists

re: Internet ping bomb attack on ITF

Dear everyone,

Something very disturbing happened on the Internet on Wednesday morning GMT. The ITF, which has its own dedicated Internet connection, was subject to a "ping bomb" attack on the Internet.

Technically, this involves the mass transmission of ping diagnostic packets which, if done the way it was, can temporarily take out an Internet connection. We have an Internet firewall that prevents hackers from getting into our network and attacking it.

However, we are susceptible to ping bombing,. We were able to divert the attack and bring our network back. But this is a very, very disturbing development. We wish to publicise what information we have about this attack and would encourage other sympathetic Internet users to let us know if they had similar experiences.

Technically, the attack came from the Internet service provider the USA. We have received a formal apology from an individual at . . . Frankly, we are not entirely convinced by this rather lame apology. For to say the attack came from a shared tech support terminal and that they do not know who actually perpetrated the attack is unusual. We would therefore like to point out where this came from and ask anyone if they have had any similar problems from the domain.

Incidentally, it is possible to track the domain name of hackers and if anyone requires technical assistance on this issue, please get in touch.

Richard Flint

Communications' Department Secretary

International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF)


Friday, 15 November 1996

Class Warfare in Cyberspace?

In late October, SoliNet was attacked by a hacker and lost much of its data. SoliNet coordinator Marc Belanger writes: "In planning how to get back into operation we decided not to restore the system from the backup tape because we suspected it might include something from the hacker. So, unfortunately, we have lost much of the conference messages. We are hoping you will help us re-build our conferences by joining our discussions. I think, and I hope you agree with me, that the only way to respond to an attack such as this is to fight back. The hacker, who obviously didn't like the idea of unionists meeting and learning on-line, cannot be allowed to win. We should continue our discussions even more energetically. We have installed a security firewall which will ensure that our discussions are not interupted again."

Labour internet pioneer Jagdish Parikh adds: "Last week two systems (one in London and other in Ottawa), both providing networking services to Labour groups, were attacked by Hackers. We don't have enough information to establish if this was conicidence or was a part of some well planned formula. In one case hacker managed to delete entire subscription list including backup files - of union mailing list. In second case they managed to damage system, destroying online conferences. . . . It quite possible that those who don't want all those engaged in social justice activities are determined to destroy all attempts to use internet for global communications and solidarity. I would like to know if we are ready to deal with such eventuality and what actions we can take to avoid such attacks."

New Labour Website:
Kav LaOved -- An Israeli Workers' Rights Center

Kav LaOved is an Israeli workers rights center that assists Palestinians working in Israel, as well as foreign workers and others whose rights have been violated by employers. Its new Website is located at the following URL:

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Copyright 1996 by Eric Lee.