I think there’s a natural link between the Open Source software community and the labour movement. There is certainly an ideological congruence: Open Source proves that people can work together to build complicated and sophisticated products without bosses and mechanisms for workplace discipline.
People and organisations participate in Open Source for different reasons: many companies – especially hardware developers – pay developers to build Open Source software because it benefits them to have widely available, free software that runs on their hardware.
But ideologically more interesting are projects like Debian, a computer operating system based on Linux. Debian’s development model is entirely democratic, and the work of more than a 1,000 volunteers all over the world is coordinated through transparent and decentralised methods.
This is workers’ self-management. It’s a way of organising labour that business tells us can’t work: you have to have a boss telling you what to do. And yet it’s highly effective: Debian is secure and probably one of the most stable and reliable operating systems in the world.
It’s also highly ethical – Debian software is entirely free – both to use, and to alter – and is governed by a social contract. This is a working example of cyber-communism, or an online gift or participatory economy: from each according to their ability, to each according to their need.
For me it makes complete sense that trade unions should be supporting Open Source instead of making Bill Gates and Steve Jobs richer. But how many unions even know about Open Source?
The person who is writing this made an official proposal to change all of our computers, servers, desktop workstations, laptops, etc. in a period of two or three years to Debian. The proposal was accepted by the most of the local trade unions from all over Spain. The process began last year, and many local federations have just changed to Debian or distros based on Debian.
Our goal is not only to change the organization’s PCs to Debian, but all of our affiliates’ machines, too. Our organization has about 60,000 members and hundreds of locals with computers; we don’t have exact numbers. The main uses of these machines are related to the office area: word processors, web browsing, and a bit of multi media.
We decided to choose Debian because Debian faithfully follows the GNU spirit, because of the DFSG (it is and will be free software), and easy maintenance with repositories of .deb packages, etc.
I used Linux Mint Debian Edition, which is Debian Testing packaged by the team at Mint to make it easier for non-technical users. It’s the best operating system I’ve ever used, and I highly recommend it. For users with no previous experience, I’d recommend regular Linux Mint with a Gnome desktop, which is probably the most user-friendly Linux distribution.
Do you know of any other unions using Open Source?