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Issue No. 300 24 March 2006  

Of Milestones and Millstones
Three hundred issues ago, in February 1999, Workers Online published its first edition, with the following promise: “to bring you news and views in the traditions of the workers press of yesteryear, but with our eyes firmly on the future.”


Interview: Organising In Cyberspace
Workers Online speaks to the ACTU's Union Organiser of the Year, Greg Harvey from the RTBU, who has been using cutting edge ways to communicate with a blue-collar workforce spread across five states.

Industrial: How Low Is Low
Neale Towart looks at the much hyped link between minimum wages and employment

Industrial: Cloak and Dagger
The Howard Govwernment has begun rolling out workshops to inform employers on how to use WorkChoices. Sean Ambrose sneaked through the doors for Workers Online.

Unions: Bad Medicine
Nathan Brown reports on how Australia Post’s dodgy Faculty Nominated Doctor system is leaving sick workers feeling worse.

History: Right Turn, Clyde
Bob Gould believes news of Clyde Cameron’s demise may be premature

Economics: Long Division
Kenneth Davidson looks at a successful political strategy

International: Union Proud
A University of California librarian calls for union labels to increase worker visibility

Politics: Howard’s Sick Joke
Phil Doyle looks at an attack on one of the great achievements of the union movement

Indigenous: The year of living dangerously
That mob in parliament house seems to be hopelessly out of touch with Indigenous Australia. So much so, that Graham Ring wonders if the House on the Hill is becoming a ‘cultural museum’.

Review: Lights, Camera, Strike!
Mandrake the Electrician has been down to the video store over the summer and rounded up the Top Ten Union Movies of all time.

Culture: News Front
If the owners are selling off papers, perhaps the unions should buy them says Mark Dobbie.


 Coonan Practises Her ABC

 Mr Andrews Decrees

 Year Zero Set for Monday

 Secret Police Visit Workers

 PacNat Back On Track

 Print Bosses Finger the Bush

 Whinger Draws Fire

 National IT Win

 RailCorp Shtum On Asbestos Stations

 Deaf Bank Pinged $145,000

 Phantom AWA of the Opera

 Crane Company Hooks Workers

 Umpire: Dump Contractors Now

 Lift Companies Promote Falls

 Activists What's On!


The Soapbox
Australian Fascism
Rowan Cahill critiques Gerard Henderson’s unique take on history

Westie Wing
Will Westie's Wings be clipped, or will the Hills Angels repent and deliver?

The Locker Room
The Heart Of The Matter
Phil Doyle rolls up the red carpet and celebrates the death of an old foe

 Bully for Us
 Onya, Pete!
 Blind Johnny
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Of Milestones and Millstones

Three hundred issues ago, in February 1999, Workers Online published its first edition, with the following promise: “to bring you news and views in the traditions of the workers press of yesteryear, but with our eyes firmly on the future.”

It was the height of tech boom and our mix of tabloid news, people-based features and irreverent comment, including the infamous 'Pierswatch' column; gained us instant notoriety and, perhaps, an inflated sense of our own significance.

A lot has changed since those first editions.

Today, rather than being a one-man show, Workers Online is put together by a team of journalists under the guidance of Jim Marr. While I still wear the badge of editor this is really only so I can have the indulgence of these weekly sprays.

The news gathering process has changed too. In the early days compiling Workers Online was really an act of conjuring headlines out of nothing, today it is a process of filtering the best stories from a broad base of issues being generated around the country every week.

Where Workers Online was initially a cry for help, a new approach to the staid process-driven missives of national executives, these days it is more a showcase of grass-roots activity, smart campaigns and latertal thinking.

This evolution has been driven from a number of sources - the decade long commitment to organising, the increased cooperation across the movement in the face of an external threat, the realisation that unions can't rely on the ALP to fix everything.

But we would like to think we have played a small part in this shift- the example we have set in bringing issues to life, along with the research, media management and strategic support we give unions, has been part of this virtuous cycle.

Our sponsoring organisation has changed too. The Labor Council of NSW has become Unions NSW, the leadership baton passed from Michael Costa to John Robertson, but the courage in giving us an independent editorial voice has remained an important constant.

In 1999, the Labor Council saw itself as almost the ACTU's opposition, rivalries that went all the way back to the Cold War and festered during the Accord years were still driving relations. Today the two organisations are partners in the Rights at Work campaign.

But perhaps the biggest change since 1999 is the one you could never have predicted - the Tech Wreck. No, we didn't lose a fortune on NASDAQ, but the collapse of the online bubble did deflate some of our more ambitious dreams.

Back then I was convinced the web was it, that the virtual world would become the new reality and initiatives like our virtual chat rooms seemed to us to be the infrastructure that would redefine unionism.

While the chat rooms gather virtual dust, a more interesting development has been the way Workers Online has been converted back into print.

These days, Workers Online journalists also produce a range of trade union magazines. And along with the tabloid treatment to those union's issues and members, these journals carry 'Workers Online' news digests - highlights from the online editions; as well as syndicated features on broader industrial issues.

So the dream of an all of movement voice is slowly making its way from its online source, into the magazines that are starting to see the benefits in building a sense of movement outside their specific member focus.

In another 300 issues it would be nice to think every union would be carrying a little bit of Workers Online in their journals.

For now, as we brace for WorkChoices, Workers Online is a part of the infrastructure that stands the movement in better stead for what will come than our enemies realise. For this. at least, I think we can be proud.

Peter Lewis



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