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Pixels and protests

This Magazine Staff

UK-based LabourStart has been threatened by an employer targeted by online protests by the activist group, which supports labour struggles internationally.
According to a release by LabourStart, members of the UNISON public-service workers union who work in homes for the aged have been told by their employer, the nonprofit Fremantle, about impending pay cuts of up to 30 percent in this way: “accept these terms or be sacked!”

LabourStart promoted an email protest campaign, and within hours, over 5,000 messages had been sent. By the end of the week, the org says it received a threat of libel action by Fremantle. The protest campaign continues despite the warning.
In Canada and elsewhere, email campaigns are a popular form of advocacy. For instance, the Canadian Auto Workers have a Take Action Now feature on their website where activists can lobby MPs for political change.
Electronic means of protest are on the rise in progressive movements. ACT UP Paris was recently sued by pharma giant Abbott Laboratories after it initiated a protest whereby activists around the world could use an automated tool to overload Abbott’s website traffic and bring the site down. (The charges were eventually dropped after the corp received a significant amount of bad PR.)

Meanwhile, unionists in Italy have made headlines when they announced their intention to launch a strike against IBM “virtually”: within the confines of the popular 3D “digital world” Second Life. IBM has been very active in the Second Life online realm, looking for ways to utilize and profit from the service. Labour activists hope to “use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house,” arousing attention and support from other SL users around the world.

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