ICTUR journal to cover our August conference

I was commissioned by the International Centre for Trade Union Rights (ICTUR) to write a short article about our August 2009 conference for their journal, International Union Rights. Here is what I wrote:

<!– @page { margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } –>LabourStart, the news and campaigning website of the international trade union movement, held its second global conference in Washington, D.C. On 17-19 August this year. The 2008 conference was held in London at the Trades Union Congress and at Amnesty International’s human rights centre.

LabourStart correspondents from the USA, Canada, the UK, Finland, Switzerland, Australia, and India participated, together with a number of American trade unionists. The conference was live-blogged both on LabourStart and on the website of the AFL-CIO, one of America’s two national trade union centres, which hosted the event at its headquarters.

It was decided to hold the event in Washington following the conference in London in 2008 at which the weakness of LabourStart in the USA was discussed.

Individual American unions – including those in the rival Change to Win federation – hosted individual events and provided other support. Among American trade union leaders who addressed LabourStart’s correspondents were outgoing AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and Teamsters’ President James Hoffa Jr. Receptions were held at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) where presentations were made about the union’s work building global solidarity and using the new technology, as well as events hosted by the American Federation of Teachers and the Communication Workers of America/Newspaper Guild.

The conference opened with a presentation by LabourStart’s founding editor, Eric Lee, about what had been accomplished in the months since the London conference. A number of goals set by that meeting have been achieved, including the launch of an Arabic language edition of LabourStart (and a Hebrew one as well), the creation of a social networking website for trade unionists (UnionBook), the holding of a very successful Labour Photo of the Year competition (now in its second year), the rapid growth of LabourStart’s following on Twitter, a complete overhaul of the news database, the closing down of LabourStartJobs.org, and the continuing growth of the LabourStart mailing lists in multiple languages.

Lee proposed that in the next few months LabourStart focus on running larger and more popular campaigns, similar to those run by websites like Avaaz.org, in addition to its usual campaigns. He also proposed an increased focus on fundraising, improving campaigns (including more languages), and more.

The proposal to ensure that LabourStart, which is now published in 23 languages, covers all of the ten most widely spoken languages was welcomed – meaning that LabourStart will need to become available in Hindi/Urdu, Bengali and Japanese. It was noted that several of those language editions had become dormant and the group committed to reviving all of the existing editions.

The wide-ranging agenda included discussions of LabourStart’s core activities – news and campaigning – but also existing and proposed projects. These included a proposed book on the subject of unions and the net, which would be a followup to books by Lee and Arthur B. Shostak (the author of “Cyber-Unionism”) who attended the conference and agreed to be involved in the book project.

A labour video of the year competition will also be launched in cooperation with the DC Metro Labor Council which runs a very successful annual film festival and has produced online databases of labour films and film festivals. Some short labour videos were shown.

The promotion of books for trade unionists and online jobs boards for those seeking work in the trade union movement were also discussed with the involvement of the founders of Union Communication Services and UnionJobs.com. LabourStart works in partnership with both, and sales of union books have soared in recent months.

Presentations were made on the subject of the successful “Your Rights at Work” campaign in Australia and on the challenges of building LabourStart in India.

A long session was devoted to frank discussions with American trade unionists about global solidarity issues and the new technology. A number of the American participants had just returned from a large conference of progressive bloggers and there was considerable enthusiasm for new technologies include microblogging (Twitter) and social networks (Facebook and UnionBook).

It was decided to hold the conferences on a regular, annual basis and next year’s event is scheduled to take place in Canada.


Written by ericlee in: 2009 conference |

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