Cyberpickets (fwd)

Luciano Dondero DOND001 at
Fri Apr 5 11:11:07 MST 1996

>Date: Thu, 4 Apr 1996 16:55:19 +0100 (BST)
>Reply-To: union-d at
>From: Chris Bailey <chrisbailey at>
>X-Listprocessor-Version: 6.0c -- ListProcessor by Anastasios Kotsikonas
>X-Comment: Union-D Distribution List
>The following article is from the latest issue of "Dockers' Charter", the
>paper of the Liverpool Dock Shop Stewards' Committee.
>It's quick, it's cheap and it takes our message to the world...
>A few years ago a hand-cranked mimeograph machine was state of the art for
>trade unionists producing their own leaflets. But within days of our sacking
>we launched appeals into cyberspace! Electronic messages and photos bounced
>off communications satellites to land in Australia, Japan and even more
>distant Manchester. Soon, the strike had its own 'web site' on the Internet
>and the 'Dockers' Charter' was 'on-line'. What's it all about?
>Greg Coyne helped to set up and co-ordinate the first European electronic
>mailing list for the trade union movement 'Union-D'. Subscribers can send
>messages via computer to all other subscribers, alerting each other cheaply
>and quickly to news of mutual interest. Union-D was set up in 1994, but the
>system hit its stride last summer, just in time for us.
>>From the Merseyside Trade Union Centre in Liverpool, Greg began posting our
>information to Union-D, giving the dock stewards' address and asking
>subscribers to advise on ways of conducting community campaigns, send
>messages of support, donations, information on the port of Liverpool and its
>international connections, and help with approaching Euro MPs. This
>information was then passed into other trade union electronic networks
>worldwide, including Canadian 'Labor-L' and US 'LaborNet'.
>When we began to seek contact with port workers around the world, we found
>comrades in Australia in 12 hours. More recently we needed a fax number for
>dockers in Piraeus. The answer to our electronic appeal came back - from
>When word of our exploits began to get around, the local press rang Greg
>Coyne to ask about our 'web site', an address on the Internet where
>information can be stored permanently, only to learn that we didn't have one
>... yet.
>While Union-D circulates to its subscribers, the Internet is a worldwide
>system used by millions of people, including a growing number of union
>Greg buzzed Jagdish Parikh, another Union-D heavyweight in the US, who
>approached 'GreenNet' which provides access to the Internet for a range of
>progressive organisations including environmental, trade union, peace and
>women's groups.
>The job of delivering our information to GreenNet then passed to Chris
>Bailey in Cambridge.
>GreenNet is a member of an international organisation called the Association
>for Progressive Communications (APC). Another affiliate to APC, LaborNet in
>the US, has been working to develop a trade union computer network. It
>organises a wide range of union computer conferences for workers in auto,
>rail, public sector, maritime etc.
>Because they are both part of the APC, LaborNet conferences are available to
>GreenNet subscribers in Britain. The conferences are US orientated, but
>LaborNet has made serious efforts to develop them in an international
>For about two years Chris Bailey has been providing a British trade union
>news input and there are similar inputs from Canada, Asia and Russia. A few
>months ago LaborNet brought some of those involved in this work onto an
>international steering committee to lobby for a greater trade union profile
>in the APC. This resulted in discussions with GreenNet on the possibility of
>developing LabourNet here.
>When the Liverpool dockers' strike was discussed with GreenNet they were
>very sympathetic and agreed to launch LabourNet by providing a free web site
>to publicise the dockers' cause. This free site offer was later extende to
>all strikes and lockouts and the Hillingdon Hospital strike has also taken one.
>Since the dockers' web site was the first, those involved didn't have much
>idea of how to do it. The Internet once more proved its worth - they were
>able to put it together by pooling the knowledge and skills of trade
>unionists in several different countries via the net.
>Their first attempt was pretty basic and was mainly based on US experience
>where a number of strikes have used web sites to build solidarity. These
>have been mainly designed to publicise the strikes to other US trade
>unionists on the net.
>They soon realised that the dockers' site was different and was breaking new
>ground. Its main potential was in publicising the strike internationally.
>Some of the features of US strike sites didn't work so well. They needed to
>develop new ideas and techniques.
>A growing number of trade union activists throughout the world now have
>access to the Internet. Trade union web sites have begun to sprout up all
>over the place. They appealed to these to publicise the dockers' site and
>got an excellent response. Important trade union web sites in the US,
>Canada, Australia and many other parts of the world linked to it and gave it
>This meant that anyone who used these sites could immediately connect to the
>dockers' site and learn all about the strike. Many trade unionists
>throughout the world heard about it this way. Although there is still only a
>relatively small percentage of trade unionists on the net they often print
>out material and pass it on to their union branches etc.
>There are also a growing number of labour movement journalists and reporters
>using the internet for information. Several have contacted LabourNet to tell
>them that they are their main source of news on the strike and to keep it
>coming. Some of these messages were from places where the Internet is
>becoming well established such as the US and Canada, but others came from
>Italy, the Czech Republic, Finland and Norway. LabourNet seem to be reaching
>the parts other news sources don't reach!
>Sometimes this bypassing of the usual biased news channels produced surprise
>results. Most trade unionists in the US were not aware of the solidarity
>action with Liverpool by East Coast longshoremen until it was publicised by
>LabourNet. Even the West coast longshoremen, who are in a different union,
>only found out when they contacted LabourNet to get in touch with the
>Liverpool Shop Stewards. It then became "hot news" on the US trade union
>Information from a computer can seem impersonal and remote. At an early
>stage LabourNet decided to use photos on the web site to portray the dockers
>as real living people, not just messages from cyberspace.
>When Jack Heyman from the San Francisco longshoremen visited Liverpool to
>bring solidarity greetings a series of photos of him with the dockers was
>put onto the site. With usual US technical ingenuity these images were
>projected onto a screen at a "support the Liverpool dockers" event organised
>by the San Francisco longshoremen's Local. At the suggestion of one of
>LabourNet's news "customers" they are now starting a service to supply
>photos via the Internet to labour movement publications.
>The next step was to put the whole of 'Dockers' Charter' on-line thus making
>it immediately available to a world-wide audience. When Liverpool dockers
>contacted dockers in New Zealand recently they found they had already read
>'Dockers' Charter' via the web site.
>By turning their fight into an international fight the dockers are showing
>the way to begin to confront new problems facing workers all over the world.
>Many of these problems arise from the globalisation of production and
>distribution brought about through the use of computer technology by
>management. It is important that this same technology is used to the full in
>the fight back. The dockers' international battle with the Mersey Docks &
>Harbour Company is playing an important role in the building of a world-wide
>computer communications network for rank and file trade unionists.
>LabourNet web site is on:
>Besides the dockers' site it also includes links to many other trade union
>sites in Britain and internationally, including Union-D.
--Luciano Dondero--

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