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Issue No. 200 24 October 2003  
E D I T O R I A L

The Hard Yards
Two hundred issues of Australia’s first and only online workers’ magazine is due reason to celebrate. It is also a good time to look at what we’ve achieved over the past five years and consider where we need to go.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: No Ifs, No Butts
Rugby League Professionals Association president Tony Butterfield on his battle to deliver a collective agreement for NRL players.

Unions: National Focus
In this month’s national wrap: Noel Hester meets a heavy hitter talking up open source unionism, truckies front the suits at Boral’s AGM, tales of corporate bastardry and Medicare birthday revelry.

Industrial: Fools Gold
Unions have thrashed out a string of protocols with the NSW Labor Government. Some, now, are questioning whether they are worth the cheap, imported paper they are written on, reports Jim Marr.

Bad Boss: Bones of Contention
Byron Bay chicken boners have nominated thier boss for a Tony after seeing their entitlements plucked.

History: The Gong Show
In late September the South Coast Labour Council (SCLC) celebrated 75 unbroken years championing the rights of workers in the coastal Illawarra region 80 kilometres south of Sydney, writes Rowan Cahill.

Politics: The Hawke Legacy
The election of the Hawke Labor government twenty years ago holds some salient lessons for today’s Labor Party, writes Troy Bramston.

International: Sick Nation
As Australia celebrates 20 years of Medicare’s universal health coverage the crisis facing American workers in need of medical care is a useful reminder of what we’ve got – and what we stand, writes Andrew Casey.

Economics: Closed Minds
Philip Mendes looks at the political influence of right-wing think tanks, their financial backing and asks why the left hasn’t been able to get its ideas out there.

Review: Mixing Pop and Politics
He's had relations, with girls from many nations... but Billy Bragg seems to like us Aussies as much or even more than any of the others, writes Pádraig Collins.

Poetry: One Size Fits All
There once was a man from the Lodge - Who tried hard, our poems, to dodge... Resident bard David Peetz is back!

N E W S

 Workers Rally For ‘Joel’s Law’

 It’s Official: Courts Weak on Safety

 Cole Insider Highlights "Agenda"

 "Racism" as Pacific Islanders Rorted

 Academics Appeal to International Umpire

 Conroy Crashes Boral Bash

 Poll Points to Hospital Overload

 Aussie Icon Set To Head Overseas

 China Gaols Union Activists

 Victory in Dili

 AWU Rejects Bid to Fleece Shearers

 People’s Bank to Hear From People

 Unions Put Students in Picture

 Memo ALP Members: Think About Unions

 New Face in the Hunter

 Activists Notebook

C O L U M N S

Postcard
North By Northwest
Phil Doyle returns from up north, where he survived on nothing but goodwill, good people and a great big orange bus.

The Soapbox
The $140 Million Patriot
It would be hard to imagine a steeper slide from hero to zero than the experience of Richard Grasso, the now-deposed head of the New York Stock Exchange. writes Jim Stanford.

Media
Bush's Bad News Blues
The Bush Administration is cooking up a new campaign 'to shine light on progress made in Iraq', writes Bill Berkowitz.

The Locker Room
A Tale Of One City
Phil Doyle gazes into the crystal ball for signs of life, and finds that somewhere the horses are running in the wrong direction.

Culture
With Banners Furled
There is no better account of the glory that was the annual Labour Day marches than that given by Kylie Tennant in Foveaux, her fictional account of life in inner Sydney in 1912, the year she was born.

Politics
The Westie Wing
Our favourite Macquarie Street MP, Ian West MLC, reports on the world of NSW politics.

Postcard
The Cancun Wash-Up
The dramatic collapse of the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Meeting in Cancun, Mexico, last month has been followed by a deafening quiet from Geneva, Brussels and Washington, writes Peter Murphy.

L E T T E R S
 Child Labour
 Advance Australia Where?
 God Save Us All
 US Seeking Aussie Info
 Call The Doctor
 Bring Back Gough
 Bring Back Social Democracy
 Look East, Look West
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Editorial

The Hard Yards


Two hundred issues of Australia’s first and only online workers’ magazine is due reason to celebrate. It is also a good time to look at what we’ve achieved over the past five years and consider where we need to go.

Since our first issue was published in February 1999, Workers Online has attempted to give unions and their members a voice; not through worthy diatribe but through tabloid, in your face news, people-based features and fearless opinion.

From where we sit, this is the language of work and the only dialogue likely to cut through the white noise that is the mass media and resonate with our membership.

Through elections, pickets, peace marches and war, we have given an alternative, progressive story of the world to counter the increasingly dour prognosis served up to us by the paid pundits of the fourth estate.

Over the 200 issues we have broken stories week after week, many of which have ended up in the mainstream papers and TV shows that dominate our public conversation.

We have raised issues that would otherwise be ignored; giving space to debates as important as water privatisation, job security and international labour rights.

And we have tried to create an online union culture where films, music and sport are viewed through a political framework that is as irreverent as it is dialectic, but never scared of taking a stand.

We have done so because we believe that a workers press must explore all aspects of working life, not just a narrow industrial agenda; and that until unions take this wider view, we'll be consigned to fringe players in our members' lives.

*********

Have we succeeded? There is no doubt that Workers Online fills a gap in the movement and that many of us would miss it if it were not there. When you lob into someone's inbox every week, you get under their skin.

Our readership, now averaging 15,000 per week is substantial in online terms - at the very least a sign that the key network of union organisers, officials and delegates, as well as those with political and industrial links, use our service.

But we should not overstate this. Even with 15,000 readers we are talking about less than half of one per cent of the entire union movement's membership. If the aim of Workers Online was to create a new workers press, then we have only scratched the surface.

In retrospect there is no doubt that my dreams of a workers' online press, where the rank and file would log on each week and get their news, were premature.

It seems obvious now, but in 1999 the momentum was such that a wired and connected world appeared to be just around the corner.

Now with the tech wreck and the War on Terror, these seem like pipe dreams and we should be prepared to wait at least another five years for this great leap forward.

***********

So this commemoration edition, printed also in hard copy for the first time, is not just a souvenir - it is a cry for help to those who run the trade union movement.

The stories in these pages are only read by the few, our challenge is to turn this into a product for the many. And to do so we need to look at trade union journals, the hard copy editions sent to the homes of all trade union members.

These journals that are read in their hundreds of thousands are narrow in their scope, preaching in their tone and, with a few notable exceptions, largely unread.

If we need to create a new unionism to survive, it must be based on common values and a common voice - and the first step is for us to share our stories across the movement

Our 200th edition plea is for union leaders of vision to adopt the Workers Online model in their own journal and share it with their membership.

Peter Lewis

Editor


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