The Labour Movement and the Internet: News, Updates and Corrections - December 1996
Internet Link Exchange
Member of the Internet Link Exchange

The Labour Movement and the Internet

News, Updates and Corrections
December 1996

Thursday, 26 December 1996

What's New on the Web? Latin American Unions, It Seems

Search through Appendix 1 of my book (Selected Labour Web Sites) and you won't find a single one from Latin America. But go to Yahoo's "Society and Culture: Organizations: Professional: Unions" page today and you'll find that all three new sites are South American. These are:

Strangely, Yahoo's other listing of trade unions -- Business and Economy: Organizations: Professional: Unions only lists the Argentinian union, and skips the two new Brazilian entries. (See my comments below on the need for a well-organized trade union web site superlist -- and why Yahoo isn't succeeding at this task.)

The two Yahoo lists -- which are largely copies of each other -- include two earlier mentions of Brazilian unions, but nothing else from Latin America. Those unions are:

The specifically labour megasites have not been much more successful in locating Latin American trade union Websites.

IGC's Labornet has only one Latin American group listed -- and that's the Geocities site of the Brazilian Workers' Party (PT) -- not strictly speaking a trade union.

The Union Resource Network had somewhat greater success, and included 2 Brazilian trade union Web sites missed by all the others:

Their efforts to locate trade union web sites in other Latin American countries were somewhat less successful. Though Venezuela appears in their directory, there are no sites listed there. The only site listed for Costa Rica is the one belonging to a local office of the International Labour Organization. The sites listed for Puerto Rico and Mexico are both US-based sites -- not actual local trade unions.

Friday, 20 December 1996

Latest Victim of Hacker Attacks on Labour Web Sites:
The British Labour Party

The following article appeared in Newsbytes and is copyrighted by them. It was distributed on labour newsgroups. It needs no further comment. Readers are invited to check out last month's "News, Updates and Corrections" page for further recent examples of hacker attacks on labour web sites. I repeat my suggestion here that we move towards the creation of a labour webmasters' discussion list to discuss this and other problems among ourselves.

LONDON, ENGLAND, 1996 DEC 13 (NB) -- By Steve Gold. The Labour party was less than pleased this week to discover that an unknown hacker had trashed its Web site. With just two attacks, the site was transformed from a slick exercise in the future of political communications into a parody of politics.

During the first raid, which occurred last weekend, the hacker changed the title "Road to the Manifesto" to "Road to Nowhere." The person also tinkered with links to other sites on the Web so they read "The Labour Party sex shop" and transferred visitors to a series of pages carrying pornography.

The site was restored on Monday from a backup within 20 minutes. Now the hacker has hit again, confirming plans outlined to the London Guardian newspaper earlier this week. In his conversation with the Guardian, he said: "Watch the Labour home page. I'm going to hack it again."

Despite Labour sealing administrator access to the Web site at , the hacker, who had a US accent, regained access and almost rewrote the site, adding images of Labour head Tony Blair taken from the Spitting Image comedy puppet series, under the banner headline of "Hacked Labour: Same Politicians, Same Lies."

The hacker also rerouted Web links which were supposed to detail information on the various personalities within the Labour party to information on the puppets on Jim Henson's Muppet Show, on the Henson Web site in the US.

Labour party officials, although clearly embarrassed by this second hack, appear to have struck a motherlode of publicity, as the Web site has been one of the busiest in the UK this week. At one stage, the site almost overloaded, so many Internet users were accessing the URL (uniform resource locator).

The running of the site is contracted out to two companies, On-line Publishing, which maintains the pages, and Poptel, which provides the Web space on its servers. Both companies have said they are investigating how the hacker gained access to the pages.

The Labour party, meanwhile, is less than impressed with the system hacks. It has called in the police to investigate, and has called for a police inquiry into the incidents. The hacker, meanwhile, claims he is a member of the Digital Anarchists, a group of British hackers, who remain committed to hacking the Web site again.

Newsbytes understands that a third hacking attempt on the Web site was attempted last night (Thursday), since when the site has been taken offline while operators work out how best to tackle the problem.

The Digital Anarchists, meanwhile, have told the British press that they intent to attack other political Web site, include those operated by the Conservative and Liberal Democrats. Newsbytes notes that the first hacker attack, which promised free drugs and beer to young Labour voters, was made last Saturday while the British hacker community was staging an all-night Christmas party on Friday night in Manchester.

Wednesday, 18 December 1996

German Labour on the Web

First of all, a correction to Appendix 1 of the book. The correct URL for the giant German metal workers' union, IG Metall, is

The IG Metall site (in German) includes a list of other German trade unions with Web sites today. When we compiled our list a few months ago, there was only one such site. Today there are at least 13 . . .

  1. IG Medien
  2. Gewerkschaft Holz und Kunststoff
  3. GEW Thüringen Homepage
  4. GEW-Forum Hochschule & Forschung
  5. ÖTV Betriebsgruppe Stiftung Rehabilitation Heidelberg SRH
  6. DGB Kreis Frankfurt
  7. Forum Soziale Technikgestaltung DGB Baden Württemberg
  8. HBV Frankfurt
  9. HBV_Bezirksverband Frankfurt
  10. Main Net Frankfurt (Gewerkschaftmailbox)
  11. Solinet
  12. »distel online« Zeitung der ÖTV Medizinische Hochschule Hannover
  13. DPG Saar

Wednesday, 11 December 1996

Needed: A Trade Union Website Superlist

Looking for a trade union on the Web? A good place to start would be
Yahoo, of course -- that massive directory of the Internet. But Yahoo obviously wasn't planning on trade union sites when it was launched, and couldn't find the perfect niche for them. So you'll have to look under "Business and Economy", and then under the subdirectory "Organizations" and from there the subdirectory "Professional" under which you'll find another directory called "Unions". Whew . . . .

And when you finally get there --

  • Yahoo's list is organized alphabetically (trying to find unions in South Africa? There's one under N.)

  • It's not comprehensive (doesn't even include the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions -- or this site, hosted by Canada's largest trade union).

  • It doesn't identify what countries the unions are in (where's the National Trade Union Congress? Answer: Singapore -- you'll find out when you get there).

  • It largely ignores the non-English speaking world (where's the Dutch national trade union center? Answer: here.)

These problems are typical of the attempts made so far to create a comprehensive and well-organized directory of trade unions on the Web.

Almost every trade union site has its list of labour links. These are often just links to affiliated organizations, or a random listing of those Web sites who've established reciprocal links. And the list is almost always in alphabetical order. Perhaps the most ambitious attempt at a superlist has come from the US-based IGC Labornet, and yet it too suffers from all the flaws of the Yahoo list. Both lists seem to come entirely from webmasters who submit their URLs -- and neither reflects any kind of ongoing research to locate more out-of-the-way sites.

The Union Resource Network has tried to create a series of pages on its Web site which break down trade union Web sites by country. While the idea is an improvement on the alphabetical listing in Yahoo and Labornet, it takes a lot of clicks to find a particular union. And in my view, there's no reason to break down a list which is at most a few hundred addresses long into dozens of pages.

What follows is a modest proposal for a superlist of trade union Web sites.

First of all, there are really two approaches. One is to distribute the list hierarchically through the Internet. One would start with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), which would maintain a list of national trade union centers (like the AFL-CIO in the USA, the TUC in Britain and COSATU in South Africa) which are affiliated to the ICFTU. (The site should also include national trade union centers which are not affiliated to the ICFTU.)

Then each national trade union center would keep its own comprehensive list of national trade unions in the various industries, regional, provincial and state unions, and local trade union branches.

There are several problems with this approach, among them the fact that not every national trade union center has a Web site. There are countries with local and regional unions online -- but no national site. Also, by distributing responsibility for maintaining the list to dozens of national trade union Webmasters, one guarantees that the data will not be consistently updated. Finally, a distributed list requires many clicks and long waits.

A single superlist -- to which every trade union web site in the world could choose to link -- would offer a better solution.

But a number of questions come up:

  • Where would such a list reside? Ideally, on some global supersite, like the ICFTU home page. But it could also reside on the server of some organization serving the labour movement, like LaborNet, URN or the Labour Telematics Centre in Britain.

  • Who would be included and who excluded from such a list? Should it include labour parties? Radical left groups? Workers' education associations? Labour studies programs at universities? The simplest list would include only trade unions.

  • How would the parallel global structure of International Trade Secretariats, which embrace national unions in particular sectors of the economy, be integrated into such a list?

  • Who would take on the arduous task of updating and periodically testing the links in such a list? It's important to include trade unions which are not reaching out and informing Yahoo of their existence.

The following is a sample structure for such a trade union Web site superlist. Note that in some cases, the sites are briefly annotated:

These and other issues should be discussed by Webmasters at local, regional, national and international trade union websites. The time has come to create a LISTSERV-based mailing list for labour webmasters, which could discuss this and other issues. Let me know what you think.

Sunday, 8 December 1996

Update on British Columbia Teachers' Federation Web Site

After revisiting the web site of this provincial trade union -- which created back in the early 1980s the very first real labour online network -- there are a few updates to be noted. First of all, the URL has changed (like many other unions, the BCTF now has a domain name of its own). The new URL is Second, our earlier report that the BCTF would be using the World Wide Web to conduct online discussion was premature. (See previous news item.) Of the five LISTSERV-based mailing lists we mentioned in the book, only three are mentioned today at the Web site and two of these are read-only. The site now contains a useful list of links to provincial teachers' unions across Canada.

Tuesday, 3 December 1996

First Trade Union Use of Web-Based Discussion Groups

In my discussion of "new tools for a new internationalism" in my book I point out the possibility of using the World Wide Web to conduct online discussions, noting the advantages of this method as opposed to USENET newsgroups, LISTSERV email-based mailing lists and closed proprietary conferencing systems, like those once used by the AFL-CIO's LaborNET at Compuserve, the various "bulletin boards" at Poptel/Geonet and IGC LaborNet's old conferencing system.

I wrote (pp. 35-26) that it seems that the very first trade union use of Web-based discussion groups will take place under the auspices of the pioneering British Columbia Teachers' Federation in Canada.

To be honest, I don't know if the BCTF has already begun using the Web as a means of conducting discussion, but I've come across a site in the US which has. And the technology they're using -- which appears on a number of Web sites these days -- is called WWWBoard. The site is the Union Resource Network and its URL is To access the online forum using WWWBoard Version 2.0, click on "Forum" under the header "Interact" in the menu on the left side of the page. The Union Resource Network has set up only two such conferences, though it's possible to create many more.

The great advantage of these kind of technology is its ease of use. It works within any browser and one need not learn any special commands to use it. I encourage other trade union web sites to adopt this and similar technologies.

Another Web-based discussion group can be found in Canada's Solinet, which is using special software developed -- with trade union input -- by a Canadian university. Unlike the Union Resource Network site, Solinet is open only to registered users and requires a password to enter its conferencing system. The Solinet conference allows users to attach files to their messages.

Readers who know of other examples of Web-based discussion taking place in the trade union movement are invited to send me examples.

Back to The Labour Movement and the Internet: The Web Site.
Back to Eric Lee's home page.
Back to Solinet.
Copyright 1996 by Eric Lee.