Monday, November 13, 2006

The new web and the unions

click to read the full text by Eric Lee of LabourStart
But unions are not rushing forward to create websites that are full of content produced by their own members. The vast majority of union websites are traditional, one-to-many forms of broadcasting just like television and radio.

There are some notable exceptions. In Britain, the Trades Union Congress launched a website some time ago called UnionReps.org.uk. At its core, the site is a giant discussion forum in which union reps (shop stewards) get to talk about whatever matters to them. It has been a phenomenal success story, studied by academics and the subject of a lot of attention. But it has not been emulated.

The typical union website – even in unions which ordinarily would see themselves as encouraging member participation – is written by officials, designed to be read by members. There is very little that members can do on these sites other than read what their leaders have to say.

It is quite ironic that websites owned by the likes of Murdoch are wide open, examples of free-ranging discussion and debate, while the websites of the trade union movement are closed, tightly regulated, censored and controlled.

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