About

Cyberunions is a project exploring the intersection between trade union organising and new technology. Rather than seeing technology as a set of tools, we see cyberspace as a space, where people work, organise politically, are entertained and educated, and engage in many fields of human endeavour.

We feel that for the most part, the labour movement has failed to understand the cultural implications of new technology: that the internet encourages iconoclasm, and new technology favours horizontal rather than hierarchical organising. The Creative Commons movement, Open Source software, the growth of online peer production and decentralised political movements mean that the world is changing fast, and that a new mode of production is being born in cyberspace.

By embracing the opportunities offered by a networked world, and building an open source labour movement, we can breath new life into our unions and reach out to a new generation of activists. The site contains both boring theoretical pieces (sorry), and more practical resources for activists.

Cyberunions was started by Walton Pantland, a trade union official based in Glasgow, Scotland, who works for Unite, the biggest union in the UK.

Walton is South African, and before coming to the UK worked with trade unions and community groups in South Africa. He wrote HIV-Aids manuals for COSATU and the ITF, and worked on projects for Workers’ World Media Productions and Ditsela.

Walton studied at Ruskin College, Oxford, and did an MA in International Labour and Trade Union Studies.

Walton’s dissertation topic was Cyberunionism, from the perspective of union renewal: to what extent can new technologies renew and revitalise unions, by reaching out to new groups of workers, challenging hierarchies and s particularly interested in the experience of grassroots activists experimenting widely, rather than slick and expensive campaigns designed by experts.

Stephen (aka marxistvegan or mv for xmpp) is a Labor Activist. Stephen holds a Masters of Science degree in Labor Studies from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst Labor Center where he wrote his Thesis on capitalism’s influence of Higher Education from a critical labor union perspective. Other areas of focus and research extend to Comparative Socialism and International Labor movements, Critical Economics from a Marxist perspective and Critical Communications. He advocates for member driven labor unions and acts against top down union organizational structures. He is an active member of May First People Link (MFPL) and on their support-team. In that past year he participated in building MFPL social network, Instant messaging service and a WebRTC Instance

Other contributors to cyberunions include Eduard Grebe.

Generally, we feel unions fail quite spectacularly at exploiting the opportunities offered by technology, due to organisational culture and bias rather than technological incompetence. We hope to test tools curate a discussion that is useful to trade union activists.

Members of May First/People Link

19 thoughts on “About”

  1. Hi Excellent site. I’ve been running a blog for my workmates at the Port of Felixstowe for nearly two years. I also use twitter and facebook. I think it made a huge difference in this years pay negotiations by having a well informed and organsied workforce.
    My only complaint about your site is the text colour on top of the red background. I personally find it hard to read.
    Keep up the good work.
    Andy Hussey
    Workforce rep
    Port of Felixstowe
    Suffolk

  2. Hello Brother Walton,

    I have begun delivering a course designed around the use of technology with trade unions here in Ontario, Canada. This is a great resource i will continue to follow this great blog.

    Cheers!

    John MacDonald

    1. Thanks John. When I have the time I’d like to put together a training manual for union reps. I’ll post it on here when it’s done.

      Let me know if there’s anything you’d particularly like to see.

      1. Hi Walton,

        Would really be interested in looking at any training material you may have developed concerning using ICT as a tool to support organising. Am trying to develop a programme for local activists but any guidance would be gratefully appreciated.

        Steve (@slyweasel)

  3. Congratulations Walton on the production of your first series of podcasts. As to be expected they are first class both in terms of technology used and content. I also like the factual background detail (like that after the ‘strike against skype’ podcast) that you provide. It means, particularly for someone like me, that the discussion doesn’t just relate to the cyber-elites that populate even the areas of the web that pretend to be liberatory.

    Keep up the good work brother!

  4. Congratulations Walton on the production of your first series of podcasts. As to be expected they are first class both in terms of technology used and content. I also like the factual background detail (like that after the ‘strike against skype’ podcast) that you provide. It means, particularly for someone like me, that the discussion doesn’t just relate to the cyber-elites that populate even the areas of the web that pretend to be liberatory.

    Keep up the good work brother!

  5. Hi Walton!  Thank you for putting everything together like this, it makes so much sense.  Would it be possible to ask you a few questions?  I am based in South Africa and tasked with organising individual workers, and I don’t see any alternative that would work as well as full on cyber unionism.  I would really appreciate some pointers!

    1. Hi Jahni

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, absolutely ask some questions: either post them in a comment or email waltonp [at] gmail.com.

      I have worked quite a lot with South African unions so I also know some of the specific IT issues there.

  6. Hi Walton!  Thank you for putting everything together like this, it makes so much sense.  Would it be possible to ask you a few questions?  I am based in South Africa and tasked with organising individual workers, and I don’t see any alternative that would work as well as full on cyber unionism.  I would really appreciate some pointers!

  7. Hello from France, Walton,congratulations for your site. You can help me ! I am starting a study for an exam about Trade Unions communication and actions by using ICT… I would much like to read your dissertation you tell about in an article and gather from all of you guys readers, info, examples, documents, good/bad bexperience, legal issues in your country… anything which can be relevant to show how and with which limits can ICT are or can be used by Trade unions.  Please contact ma at first on this mail : bochsa@voila.fr. Thanks !

  8. Hi Walton – as you know – we have been organising in second life for nearly 6 years as SL Left Unity.  We helped when the TUC had “Union Island” on the platform.  Sl has its limitations – but also pluses.  Please refer to our website for details on past and present campaigns etc. http://www.slleftunity.com  and also tweets as @slleftunity:disqus 

    Plot Tracer

  9. Hi Walton, it would be great to meet up at some stage to chat – as you probably know I’m the President of the NUJ and represent the New Media sector and I’m also an anarcho-syndicalist, so very much in tune with what you’re trying to do here.

    1. There have been attempts, that for sure, there have been failures as well. However we are a place of sharing ideas for both organizing and integration of new technology with a focus on free software (free as in freedom) and connecting the communities. Have you had any experience with the tech sector?

  10.  
    Hi comrades, there has been a very recent exchange on the same issue, it can be very interesting to link up and join in discussions, ie if you think of a larger round table show! In solidarity, Orsan 

    The P2P – Marxism Debate Takes Off
    Posted on February 24, 2012 
    As an intro to a recent post ‘And the Debate Begins… Peer-to-Peer and Marxism: analogies and differences‘ we have said:
    “We are posting a critically timed and very important interview on P2P-Marxism nexus. Conducted by Jean Lievens with the founder of the Foundation for P2P Alternatives Michel Bauwens on some aspects of his P2P theory and Marxist theory, the interview might be the opening of the greatest debate of coming years. While the rising ‘mode of P2P Production’ and new P2P political processes have obviously overdetermined the massive social change process that came about in 2011, with the contribution of such productive debate we would be able to get much clearer projectionson real alternatives to capitalism, and how to make these alternatives happen. In the aftermath of the death of  the ‘postmodern condition’ and with the return of  the ‘class warfare’ , such debate would level the field for a constructive engagement between marxist, anarchist, and post-marxist critical traditions.”The debate has been recently took off with impulses coming from a short article by Bohm and Land, and Jakob Rigi’s response to them. We reproduce the email exchange below. The debate will likely continue here and/orhere. In order to join the debate on the first link you will need to register P2P Foundation’s social network on Ning first.

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