The Labour Movement and the Internet: Chapter 6 (Selection)
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The Labour Movement and the Internet

Chapter 6 (Selection)

The Emerging Global Labournet

So far, I've used the term "emerging global labournet" a few times, but all the examples I've given have been local and national. A new internationalism isn't going to be created from the BBS of an electrical workers' local in Chicago or even a province-wide network of teachers in Canada. Those are important efforts to introduce computer communications into the labour movement. They have had positive effects, including democratizing ones in the unions themselves. But they cannot by themselves create a global labournet, let alone a new internationalism.

In this chapter, I want to focus on two approaches to international labour computer communications. One is what we might call the "vertical" global labournet. This is the one involving the existing insitutions of the labour movement, including the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, the various international trade secretariats, and other groups, like the International Federation of Workers' Education Associations. The other is the "horizonal" global labournet. By this I mean the contacts being made and coalitions being built between individuals and organisations in different countries without the intermediary of an international organisation.

Some early observers of the emergence of "labour telematics" in the 1980s thought that the "horizontal" net would bypass or even replace the traditional international trade union structures. They were wrong. Thanks to computer communications, those structures have become stronger, not weaker.

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Copyright 1996 by Eric Lee.