November 16, 2003

A new model for anti-corporate activism

Category: Politics — Biella @ 8:08 am

Praveen wrote me this really interesting email about Walmart, which though not unique to launch serious FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) campaigns against its workers, it perhaps brings it to an art form and is iconic of what workers face today:

Praveen writes:
Walmart has been making considerable news lately with it’s continuing
plans to rollout mega-super-centers in otherwise untapped markets.
This article is a morbidly fascinating article on the borg like effect walmart has had
on the American economy. From a tactical viewpoint, walmart is leveraging
it’s position as a man-in-the-middle and playing by the numbers in a borg
like manner on all fronts: They are rabidly anti-union, fire workers for
any form of dissent all the while paying them sub-living wages, buying off
local governments… And then on the backend importing as much custom
cheap labor and material from overseas and decimating american suppliers.

My question: how do you stop them??

I have a provisional answer that may not stop them but it might help.

Ok, I have recieved two requests from Walmart women looking for information about the class action suit that I wrote about on my blog september

Great that they contacted me, deplorable they had to contact *ME.*When I went to do a search about the class action suit to see if there was a main webpage, there was not. It was hard to find information about it.

I makes me think that we have a long way to go before activists use the web properly not as a tool in and of itself but a tool to make stuff happen, to facilitate other activities. Just as people naturally go to the web to “click” and shop and get their news, it is key that workers of each and every company and of Unions have central sites where they go to to find out information about what the company is up to. I mean you have something like blog style which simply LISTS everything that a walmart worker might find useful, lawsuites, union organzin, etc.
More important, is that the site is run NOT my a Walmart Worker so that they don’t get FUD (that is fucked) by Walmart and that it takes on a status as a brand. People, like it or not work through brand recognition and we need to take that for our projects.

So h0mee, basically what I am saying is start that frikken site! And start a movement around the idea that EVERY company needs such a site…. Then folks can post anonymously about the shannanigans of the corporation in such a way that it shames the company and it provides frankly USEFUL information for the workers. It is thier site, a central place that people can go to which wont take too much time which is KEY because part of the reason people cant do anything is that there is NO TIME in this country. You can strike in France every other day becaue you wil still get paid. They work us to the Bone in the US so that folks as much as the will is there, the body is trapped in thre reality of time constraints.

As you know this is the tactic that I am taking with Stories of Shame which is generating some stories by University of Chicago students but it will take some offline campaigning to get folks to the website. I mean you and I are bloggers, we are IRC chatters, the net is a place of sociality for us in a way that it is not for many. We need to bring sociality to people, a form of sociality that gives them information, a type of transparency that otherwise is hard to grope for individually but using branding tactics so that there is name recognition over time.

This is Brin’s argument in The Transparent Society which I thought was quite compelling argument for openness and transparency as forms of direct political action. If they are keeping tabs on us, we then too need to keep info on then and expose it. And in such a way where it is only natural to go you your “” website.

If I were not in school right now, I think I would try to get a grant precisely to launch such a campaign. I mean I think it is a really good idea. Meet with Union organizers and activists organizers at the top 10 companies with the lousiest labor practices, teach them how to set this shit up, get a server up at the Community Colo and finally really try to join labor activism with the power of the anonymity and flexibiity of the web.

So that is my answer.

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