Webwork: Radio Labour & Killer Jeans

I took a week to cross the country with family by train (a kind of rolling reunion) this past spring, and wasn't online much at all. When I got home and back to surfing union websites for LabourStart material to post, I was reminded, again, how we keep breaking the most basic and non-techish rules in our use of the net. Way too many union websites had remained static. I saw the same news, same photos, same everything. And I don't mean local union sites run by volunteers or by somebody who retired a year ago. I mean national union websites. We continue to do a fine job of leaving the world with the impression we are doing nothing.

While I left my laptop behind, I did take my Blackberry. So, for the first time, I listened to RadioLabour on my BB. It worked perfectly. RadioLabour's steadily growing in popularity, with its global labour news given in five-minute chunks Monday through Thursday, with a 10-minute edition each Friday. You can stream it through a computer or smartphone, but also subscribe at their site (www.radiolabour.net), or through iTunes.

Mostly I listen each morning at the Y as I struggle though my stretching routine.

While RadioLabour is one use of the net I approve of (yeah, OK, so I am a contributor; sue me for liking it, too), I really enjoy dumping on the ones I don't think much of. iPhone apps would be one of those. Mostly I just hate them because I think they look a lot like unions endorsing one brand of phone -- the iPhone, maybe an iPad; one not many members would spend big bucks on. One that uses an ugly employer in China called Foxconn whose employees, when not being blown up or exposed to nasty chemicals in their workplace, are prone to jumping out of windows to avoid another day at work.

Alex White, in Australia, who writes on unions and online campaigns a lot, has three big reasons to avoid iPhone apps: 1) The regular old mobile web is bigger and better than it used to be; 2) iPhone apps are expensive to build and update; and 3) Hardly any members will use it.

For the very readable reasons behind Alex's conclusions see: http://tinyurl.com/3jqqxt7.

Killer Jeans Campaign
Labour Behind the Label (the UK branch of the global Clean Clothes Campaign) demanded a lot of their supporters with their latest online campaign (see www.killerjeans.org). "Killer Jeans" targeted companies like Armani, D&G and Diesel for selling jeans that are sandblasted to make them worn and fashionable. That sandblasting causes a bunch of health issues for the workers involved, including silicosis, a fatal lung condition. In Turkey alone, 5,000 garment workers have the disease and will die of it if a bus doesn't get them first.

The online component of the Killer Jeans campaign called on CCC supporters around the world to engage in a different online action each day for a week: one day a Facebook posting (text supplied) and the use of a campaign graphic as your profile photo; next day a protest email to the brands marketing these jeans. After that, Twitter postings directed at the major high-end brands asking why they allow suppliers to kill workers this way. You get the idea. Each action over the week is small in and of itself, but, cumulatively, might put some real pressure on the brands. Each action is designed to be fast and easy, and because they are spread over several platforms (email, Twitter, Facebook, a website, etc.), chances are that each CCC supporter will be able to participate at least two or three times throughout the week.

Speaking of Twitter, there are now a bunch of tools out there on the web that claim to measure your reach with the various social networking tools available. "Tweetreach" is just one, but it comes with a few recommendations. Give it a try and let me know what you think. Or suggest others and I'll pass them along. Knowing just how far our efforts take us has got to be something we'd all be interested in.

FairSay, a UK-based NGO, held a mini-conference entitled Activism vs. Slacktivism, all about online campaigning. They have made available online, via video, some useful thoughts, tips and tricks.
See http://tinyurl.com/3ktp8fa.

Need or want to stay anonymous online? All you need is to set up Firefox as your browser (a good idea anyway if you're an Explorer user) and then download the TOR package at www.torproject.org. It gets great reviews from the good folks at The Guardian Tech Weekly.

Something just plain bizarre, and so something I have to share, is the website of an Australian company that provides organizing services, on a contract basis, to unions. Got a target workplace but no organizers at hand? Contract out the campaign! Several unions in Oz have used them. See www.appleretailunion.com.

One more organizing item. You can find "The Tao of Organizing" -- some theory, drawn from practice -- on the art of organizing, by Rex Lai, at the always wonderful New Unionism Network. See http://tinyurl.com/6dl6shj.

Derek Blackadder is the co-ordinator for LabourStart in Canada and an honourary member of the Toronto Workers' History Project’s Archive Committee. Feedback and ideas for future WebWork topics welcome. 


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