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Workers of the World, Unite -- Online

by Eric Lee

"Unions may become more global in their demands . . . Increasingly, labor is communicating on an international basis, and what you will witness will be a trend toward concerted international labor activities."

That could almost be a quote from the Communist Manifesto, written by Marx and Engels more than 150 years ago. Actually, it comes from the right-wing American newspaper USA Today last week. The quote appeared in an article highlighting worldwide industrial unrest in the auto industry.

For people who have written off trade unions or think the working class is somehow irrelevant, the news of a world wide upsurge of industrial unrest might come as something of a surprise.

But not to readers of some of the online news services which have done more in recent years to build international working class solidarity than anything since, well, the Communist Manifesto.

Two websites that 'aggregate' news about unions worldwide are worthy of special attention.

The newer one is called Global Unions and it's the official website of the major institutions of the international trade union movement. It can be found at

The good news is that such venerable institutions as the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (whose UK affiliate is the TUC) are making use of the web, posting their press releases as they appear. And they are doing so in partnership with what are called the 'international trade secretariats' -- these are multi-national federations of unions working in the same industry (e.g., transport, teachers, journalists, metal workers).

Go to their website today and you'll learn how Norwegian workers contributed to a U.S. union winning recognition, or about a major agreement between Phillips Semiconductor and the giant German union IG Metall.

The problem is, those are both two-week old stories -- and they're the newest things on the site.

The other problem is that these stories are, and read like, press releases.

The other site that aggregates trade union news from a much wider variety of sources is LabourStart, launched back in 1998. It's available at (Full disclosure: I launched the site and continue to work on it as a senior editor.)

LabourStart is updated 24 hours a day by a network of 144 volunteer correspondents based all over the world. On average, they submit 50 or more news stories every day to the site. Those news stories come from mainstream sources, from the trade union websites, and from the new alernative media as well.

News from LabourStart's online news links database is featured automatically -- and in real time -- on more than 255 other sites around the world. And while Global Unions is offered in only one language (English), LabourStart appears in nine languages today, with more on the way.

Anyone reading LabourStart would have spotted the upsurge in industrial unrest in the world's auto industry long before the reporters at USA Today did.

More important, they would have been able to act. Because in addition to publishing news stories, websites like Global Unions and LabourStart often give trade unionists means to express their solidarity or protest, with email campaigns, online petitions, and so on.

A century and a half after Marx and Engels called upon the workers of all countries to unite, new, cheaper, faster communications technologies may be making such unity possible.

This article appeared in the Scottish Socialist Voice -- "the paper that's NOT owned by millionaires".

This document was last modified: Wednesday, 23-Nov-2022 08:33:36 CET

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