Union Organising App

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Cirtur's picture
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Nov 7 2015 21:45
Union Organising App

I'm currently attempting to create an android app that allows a person to create a union on their phone, encourage others to join, and then within that virtual space, discuss and organise actions that they could take.

I live in Edinburgh and have liaised with the edinburgh university anarchist society and while very supportive, they don't have the skills required to help me develop this app.

Does anyone know where I might be able to find anyone interested in joining the team to create this (possibly literally revolutionary) app?

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Nov 8 2015 01:58

You know what, I was thinking about this in the shower the other day. So you have an app where you put where you work and that you want to start a union, or organise or whatever, and when other people get it who work in the same place as you get a notification so you can start talking together.

However what I was thinking was it would be very difficult from a privacy point of view. How would you stop employers registering a dummy account on it, for example in order to identify and get rid of any organisers?

In terms of app skills, we have asked if anyone can help with that stuff and not had a response. We also e-mailed occupy design and they said they didn't have any app developers…

But I definitely think this is an idea worth exploring

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Nov 8 2015 17:10

You've described it very well.

The unions work like a closed Facebook group, where you have to be approved to join, not a perfect system but a good compromise. Thanks for replying and I'm glad to see people have had the same idea, if anyone reading this would like to help, or even just find out the progress this is making, please email me at John (at) onethreethree.net

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Nov 8 2015 17:30
Cirtur wrote:
You've described it very well.

The unions work like a closed Facebook group, where you have to be approved to join, not a perfect system but a good compromise.

although that wouldn't stop employers creating the first account themselves, then using it to entrap anyone else

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Nov 8 2015 19:28

Bosses being scared enough to do that would be a good problem to have smile

All of the questions like security and defaults and usability we want to be able to answer with "this is the option that the users find most useful". Our goal at the moment is to get the app to a state of basic functionality, and then use the experience of its users to guide its development. So, if you, as a user, felt this was a serious problem, then we would definitely begin developing it.

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Nov 8 2015 19:57

So, I don't want to splash cold water on this, but I worry things like this sort of attempt to leap-frog over the difficult nuts-and-bolts of genuine workplace organizing.

Now, it's possible that I'm just old and out of touch with the kids, but I think something like this could be good for linking up militants overs large geographical distances, but, in my experience, when organizing at work, the most direct form of communications is always the best. In terms of building confidence and trust and solidarity, face-to-face ranks #1 down to social media at the bottom.

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Nov 8 2015 21:17
Quote:
Now, it's possible that I'm just old and out of touch with the kids, but I think something like this could be good for linking up militants over large geographical distances, but, in my experience, when organizing at work, the most direct form of communications is always the best. In terms of building confidence and trust and solidarity, face-to-face ranks #1 down to social media at the bottom.

100%. While I also like this app idea, there is really nothing that can replace the one-on-one conversations and other direct forms of communication. Social media is good for reaching people in large numbers, but not for the primary activity of getting a workplace/individuals organized. It's after that the app can come in play.

Though I think that an app that ensures users are completely anonymous could actually be really useful in right-to-work states, in workplaces where people are afraid to discuss organizing due to black listing and so on. Facilitating anonymous conversations Yik Yak style could potentially be quite powerful, though that's just speculation. And then it doesn't necessarily matter if management signs up.

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Nov 8 2015 21:26

Haven't anonymous messaging apps been used to co-ordinate strikes at Foxconn? (iirc - very different context obviously, and may just be for the call-out once the groundwork has been set by face-to-face agitation)

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Nov 8 2015 23:28
Chilli Sauce wrote:
So, I don't want to splash cold water on this, but I worry things like this sort of attempt to leap-frog over the difficult nuts-and-bolts of genuine workplace organizing.

Now, it's possible that I'm just old and out of touch with the kids, but I think something like this could be good for linking up militants overs large geographical distances, but, in my experience, when organizing at work, the most direct form of communications is always the best. In terms of building confidence and trust and solidarity, face-to-face ranks #1 down to social media at the bottom.

yeah, the way I was thinking about it it wasn't for things like if you work in a small cafe, it was if you work for a medium or large sized company with multiple workplaces, or if you work for a company where you never meet your colleagues (tech workers who work from home, couriers, minicab drivers etc)

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Nov 9 2015 04:46

The plan is for the app itself to be a tool that makes workplace organising easier, so it wouldn't be replacing face to face interaction but augmenting it. The 'nuts-and-bolts' will always be required, we're just trying to lower the barriers to entry to doing them, ideally to the point where someone with no experience of workplace struggle can fight and win.

This is all moot if the app is never made though, so if you know anyone who's even so much as looked at a semi-colon, please let me know

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Nov 9 2015 06:07

So, again, I don't want to be like grumpy anarchy-grandpa, but this is sort of exactly what worries me:

Quote:
ideally to the point where someone with no experience of workplace struggle can fight and win.

So, like, that's a goal we all have, I just worry that an app like this can be seen as a shortcut - when the unfortunate reality is that the vast majority of us - radicals workers or not - have basically no organizing experience. I tend to think that best thing I think we can do, as those dedicated radicals, is get the basics down, attempt to implement them at work, and then pass on (and learn from, to be fair) those skills and ideas to our co-workers.

Something like this could be great in the midst of, say, a strike wave or in the course of a regional or national organizing drive, but I find the idea of "creating a union on your phone" to - not to sound harsh, but - misunderstand how workplace organizing happens.

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Nov 9 2015 12:41

I appreciate what you're saying, could you give me some idea as to what tool you think would be useful?

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Nov 9 2015 14:46

I can only speak from personal experience, but I'm not sure there's any magic tool that's going to do the trick.

I remember in my first couple of jobs, my idea of organizing was to try and convince people politically (about unions, class struggle, libertarian communism, whatever), sign them up into the union, and then - I'm not sure - I never got that far (despite winning a lot of political arguments).

I wasn't until I went on the IWW 101 Organizer Training that I began to approach workplace organizing in any sort practical way, with some idea of how to approach people and a set of tactics.

I think basically what we need is experience and ways to pass on that experience. I'm afraid social media's not a very good way to do that and what's best is us learning the basics, attempting some organizing at work, and then passing on lessons and experience in some sort of systematic way.

I see you're in the UK and I know - at least in London - the IWW has been experimenting with some new training models and there's always a need for things like layout assistance, powerpoints, etc.

nokta
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Nov 9 2015 15:49

I am too not convinced yet of this app idea. I had another idea for an database/webapplication that would make it easy to find out about struggles and similar things world wide, augmented by metadata e.g. location, industry, company etc. This could make it easier to find information about struggles in your company in different places in the world and would make it easier to link up. This could also be used to spread calls for solidarity actions.

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Nov 9 2015 16:51

I agree with the people saying there's no substitute for face-to-face organising, but that doesn't mean you couldn't - in principle - complement it with technology. I suspect this would matter most when trying to spread struggles beyond a specific location, which most radical organising isn't capable of at present.

But thinking out loud, there's already things like signal, which encrypt text messages and calls (which gives some protection against bosses e.g. doing a 'random' search and going through your phone). So any app would need to do something more than communication to be worthwhile.

One thing the Quebec students did was use a threshold system, where general assemblies would vote to join the strike if X number of others voted to join the strike. I wonder if that would scale (down as well as up), a sort of 'i will if you will' pledge to gauge support/encourage action. Would probably need to be a precursor to IRL meetings - I'm not sure I'd want to wildcat based on a glorified app poll - but might be a useful tool.

Then there's social mapping tools. An app with a user-friendly interface could be useful - but there's a big security concern about digitising that kind of information and carrying it on you rather than keeping a pencil/notebook locked up at home. Maybe some kind of 'flow of production' mapping tool would be useful though, to help identify choke points and the like. Could be a glorified flow-chart builder, so it scales for individual workplaces and wider networks of firms/industries.

Something that might lend itself to a smartphone app is more neighbourhood organising, door knocking and the like. If you could have an app that allowed people to assign themselves to areas, then log where/when they've been, could be handy in certain kinds of campaign. Though again, you have to weigh the marginally slicker tool against the centralised data that potentially makes available to adversaries. It may be better to keep it old school.

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Nov 9 2015 17:15

Chilli sauce, I see what you mean in one respect, but I think TBH a bit of a problem with the IWW training is that it is so focused on people working in one small workplace. If you're at a big or medium-sized, nonunionised chain then you will need some form of communications technology to be able to organise effectively.

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Nov 9 2015 17:21

I think that's a fair enough criticism Steven (and fair points from JK, too) but, for me, the problem has never been with linking up with militants (or what that often means in practice, lefties) in my own industry, but being able to "move" my immediate workmates to take action - whether that's taking those first organizing steps or staying out on a strike day. I just don't think networks like that are ever going to be very effective if we don't have the basics down first and - not just with this app - I think radical organizing far too often puts the cart before the horse.

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Nov 9 2015 17:21

organisr: for when you'd rather fuck the bosses

You're welcome.

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Nov 9 2015 18:05
the button wrote:
organisr: for when you'd rather fuck the bosses

You're welcome.

that is so good.

The app logo must have some sort of fist in it…

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Nov 9 2015 18:09
Chilli Sauce wrote:
I think that's a fair enough criticism Steven (and fair points from JK, too) but, for me, the problem has never been with linking up with militants (or what that often means in practice, lefties) in my own industry, but being able to "move" my immediate workmates to take action - whether that's taking those first organizing steps or staying out on a strike day. I just don't think networks like that are ever going to be very effective if we don't have the basics down first and - not just with this app - I think radical organizing far too often puts the cart before the horse.

This is very true. Really I think something like this could really become useful in a kind of scenario where you have informal workplace groups (or more formal embryonic union groups, which would ultimately be based on informal workplace groups in any case but hey…) in more than one branch/office/whatever. So yeah the biggest challenge would be getting one group in the first place but something like this could help link different groups.

Wayne
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Nov 9 2015 19:34

I think this is a brilliant idea - I have no useful skills, and nothing worthwhile to contribute, but I think it's a great idea.

Sabotab
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Nov 9 2015 20:21

I'm interested in helping out with the development of this app. I'm thinking that users should fill out a survey to determine how far workers at a workplace will go if the other workers there get involved. Maybe this app could use geolocation to confirm where you work. Without that confirmation, a boss could create many dummy accounts easily. I think a single dummy account won't make much of a difference because this won't cause much of a skew. In the early stages, the most useful feature of this app would be determining what most workers at your workplace think about organizing with little effort.

Sabotab
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Nov 10 2015 04:55

Also https://www.reddit.com/r/socialistprogrammers/ might be a good place to find other programmers to help you with this app

cactus9
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Nov 10 2015 09:14

I might be able to write something using a free app maker, it'll be a few days before I get a chance to look. I'd be interested to try anyway.

I'm thinking of something really simple, chat, meetings, reps if necessary.

xx
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Nov 10 2015 19:28

Whatsapp is very popular with migrant workers who organise

Flint
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Nov 10 2015 19:45

get a spreadsheet

Flint
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Nov 12 2015 14:04
Sabotab wrote:
In the early stages, the most useful feature of this app would be determining what most workers at your workplace think about organizing with little effort.

You should have a good idea about whether every worker would support a union before you are doing anything that could expose your organizing drive to the boss. This app seems to have way too much exposure for what should be an open source intelligence mapping of the workplace.

Flint
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Nov 10 2015 19:54

This is what UNITE HERE uses

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Nov 11 2015 01:11

Thanks for the lead on the socialist programmers, if you want to be a part of the development, there is a very basic trello with the Minimum Viable Product diagrammed and a very broad outline of the tasks ahead, just email me john (at) onethreethree.net and I can add you to the board

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Nov 11 2015 01:47
Flint wrote:
This is what UNITE HERE uses

you just spoke to my soul

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Nov 11 2015 03:19

Excited by a group of radical thinkers reconsidering how technology may help in the fight for social justice.

However I'm not sure what is unique that this app would be offering. The next thing that came to mind is all the obvious security risks.

I have experience with web design, programming and am currently studying network security but not sure about this particular idea.