Thursday, September 27, 2007

Is this what union strikes will look like in the future?

The UAW/GM strike was pretty textbook in terms of the way the strike was conducted, but here's a new twist on an old way of doing things. From the AFL-CIO Blog:

Join Italy’s IBM Workers in a Virtual Strike
IBM workers in Italy have taken the next step in challenging the corporate globalized world—they’ve set a Virtual Strike on Second Life for Sept. 27.

The members of UNI and the Communications Workers of America, through its Alliance@IBM, are waging the online effort after IBM canceled a provision in its contract with Italian workers that resulted in the loss of 1,000 Euros per year for each employee. The works council, supported by the majority of IBM employees in Italy, had asked for a small salary increase. [...]

UNI is a global union for skills and services with 15 million members in 900 unions.

Don’t know what Second Life is? Here’s a good time to give it a try. Second Life is an online 3-D platform that enables you to create your own persona (”avatar”) and take part in virtual group events.

Click here and follow the steps to sign up (basic membership is free), and continue to download the software. The virtual strike at IBM isn’t the first and won’t be the last online action among workers, and it’s a good chance to show your solidarity and build a global community that includes workers as the forefront of the new world order.
Here's some further background from UNI.
“This is the first ever union action in the virtual world,” said the General Secretary of UNI global union Philip Jennings speaking in New York. “Wherever companies go we shall pursue them if they behave badly. It opens new avenues for industrial pressure in the future and brings greater involvement in trade union activities for younger, computer-savvy members.”

“Businesses like IBM are using the new opportunities of the Internet and virtual space like Second Life to reach customers - but they cannot have that space to themselves. The best step forward now is for IBM to sit down in real life with the workers coordinating body in Italy and resolve this dispute.”
Does the idea of a virtual strike seem ridiculous? To some it might, but I think blogger Nancy Scola puts it in perspective:
The IBM strike might not win a lot of pity points from the Italian public for losing their annual bonus, so picketing up and down Italian streets might not be the most effective means of protest. But by striking in Second Life, the Italian IBM workers are letting the tech-savvy company know that they don't appreciate their behavior, while raising consciousness on Big Blue's doings in every tech publication that has picked up the story around the world.
A virtual strike gives the IBM workers a voice, a way to communicate. Sometimes that's enough. Sometimes people just want their voices to be heard.


abi said...

Interesting...I work for IBM (not in Italy) and this is the first I've heard of this. Thanks.

Seems like an interesting way to have your voice heard.

Kathy said...

Don't you wish you worked in Italy?! I figured you worked in the computer field since your blog is so great. I need to do something with mine, but I keep putting it off because I'm worried I'll get lots of glitches that will take hours of my time.

Anyway, I thought the concept was interesting too, and if there's one thing "Old Blue" doesn't need it's more bad publicity about the way they treat their employees.

Kathy said...

Oops, I should clarify that last statement. I don't know how they treat their current employees (although the Italians seem to have a legitimate complaint), I was referring to what they did to their retirees some years back.

abi said...

Very few computer companies have real retirement plans anymore. IBM was actually one of the last to dump its retirees out on the street - I mean, give them the benefit of portable 401ks.

The reason the Italian workers are upset about their "bonuses" is that IBM pitches bonuses as part of salary - you may be paid a little less, but then there's the bonus component.

I'd have more to say on that, but you never know who's listening. ;-)

Thanks for the kind words about my site.