Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Labour Notes letter - 2012

Labour Notes (you guys really should get around to correcting the typo in your title) is always the place to go for info and encouragement on issues, news and actions that don’t get a lot or much attention elsewhere.  So, thanks.

A good example is Ruth Needleman’s “Making Global Solidarity Real’.  But as much as I appreciated her analysis, there’s one trend in global solidarity actions and organizing that she doesn’t cover: the self-organizing that many workers are engaging in that doesn’t take place through or with their unions’ institutional connections.  Those unions may support these efforts, but they’re not directly responsible for them.

There’s a whole lot going on at the workplace level as workers connect directly to other workers using the internet.  The project I’m involved in, LabourStart, regularly responds to requests by workers in one country wanting a contact amongst their co-workers in another.  GM workers in Canada wanting to connect with GM workers in Korea was the direct inspiration for this letter.  The former had read on LabourStart about the latter heading towards a strike in July.  A quick e-mail and the connection is made.

Similarly, there are other efforts, like RadioLabour (see or subscribe on iTunes) that work to try and raise the profile of struggles around the world an in that way build an understanding of the importance of international work by providing a 5 minute dose of solidarity in the form of an internet radio show.  Monday through Thursday 40,000 listeners get 5 minutes of news about workers and their unions from around the world, with a 10 minute weekly update each Friday.
Less than a month old is Revoluntionizing Retail, a one-stop shopping site for retail workers looking to change their working lives. See  Right now limited to North America, it has the potential to grow into something much bigger.

As these volunteer-based ‘unofficial’ but union-supported efforts are working at the rank-and-file level of the movement, there’s some interesting ‘top-down’ (sometimes that can be a good thing) work being done too.  As Ruth noted in their article, unions as organizations are becoming more and more international in their organizing efforts.  One effort she didn’t mention is Union Solidarity International, a project of Unite (UK).  It combines a real commitment of resources by a union with a long history of international engagement with an understanding that for global solidarity to have a real impact on our work as trade unionists it has to reach deep down into the union and it has to have a direct and discernible impact on the work of local unions.

So USI (see carries print news, produces a weekly podcast and acts as a portal to Unite branches (locals) looking to be twinned with a local union somewhere out there in the world.
All great resources for anyone looking to organize more effectively in their workplace on the need for globalization of our kind, not theirs.

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