The idea behind this conceptual research paper arose from a collaboration with Volunteer Activists for whom I had organised online training workshops on the themes of fundamental labour rights and advocacy to support activists in an extremely repressive environment. By providing a window into their situation, these interactions helped me to reflect about how else labour rights activism could be supported when confronted with overwhelming constraints.
My own enjoyment of economic stability has been strongly linked to the degree of unionisation at the workplace. In this world, trade unions are formal structures deeply integrated within surrounding economic and political systems, and the organising they do is generally supported and respected. This endowment represents the outcome of unique cultures and histories, including craft guild traditions and the 19-20th Century political struggles for equality and social justice in Europe and the U.S.A. However, as an institutional expression of worker power, significant challenges exist for this democratic model of governance for workers in different settings.
Having worked with activists in repressive environments, the question I want to answer is if there are other models of worker organising that can safely build collective power in repressive environments – an approach called ‘virtual organising’. Simply put: what other essential qualities of trade union organising could be developed virtually for use in repressive environments and how should this be supported?
This interim report explores how virtual organising could be used to support trade union organising and facilitate the development of pathways for the exercise of collective bargaining in repressive environments. The aim is to transition into a final report by integrating evidence derived from survey respondents and ongoing literature review to provide activists, leaders, and their trade unions with information about, as well as models of, virtual organising, and so stimulate curiosity and further the development of workers’ rights.
Download the interim research report: https://www.academia.edu/s/