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  Issue No 63 Official Organ of LaborNet 21 July 2000  




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'Dot Union' Proposal on the Table

paper released by ICANN

ICANN, the global governing body of Internet domains, has released the following expression of interest in proposing a top-level domain for trade unions



It should be noted that the policies mentioned in this paper are likely to be features of an eventual proposal for a trade union TLD. This paper is meant only as a guideline, however, and it is quite possible that some or all policies mentioned could be altered considerably, following a full discussion among the sponsoring group on the content of a proposal.

1. Self identification

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions is submitting this expression of interest, on behalf of a group of international trade union organisations and their national affiliated organisations. The group of international organisations, referred to hereafter as "the sponsoring group", comprises:

� Education International ( � International Confederation of Free Trade Unions ( � International Federation of Building and Wood Workers ( � International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Union ( � International Federation of Journalists ( � International Metalworkers' Federation ( � International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation (

� International Transport Workers' Federation ( � International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Association ( � Public Services International ( � Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD ( � Union Network International ( � Universal Alliance of Diamond Workers

ICFTU has 216 affiliated organisations in 145 countries and territories, and represents 123 million workers, 39 million of whom are women. The ICFTU membership includes, for example, the AFL-CIO (USA), CLC (Canada), DGB (Germany), TUC (UK), FNV (Holland), COSATU (South Africa), LO and TCO (Sweden), CUT (Brazil), KCTU and FKTU (South Korea), ACTU (Australia). In addition to the sponsoring group listed above, all of these national trade union centres are closely associated with this expression of interest.

2. Brief Description of the structure and purpose of the proposed TLD

The Top-Level Domain (TLD) would be chartered (or restrictive). The preferred string for the domain would almost certainly be ".union", although some discussion is taking place as to whether it would be necessary, at some stage, to set up a number of "alias" TLDs to make the TLD more accessible to other language groups (such as ".syndicat" or ".sindicato").

The TLD would be open to registrations from representatives of trade unions which are independent of outside control and have a democratic structure.

The purpose of the TLD would be five-fold:

a) to provide a strong and clear identity for workers' organisations on the Internet;

b) to facilitate the efforts of employees to find and contact trade unions in their country, sector, or enterprise;

c) to help internet users identify bona fide trade union organisations, as distinct from bogus unions such as government-sponsored labour fronts, and company-controlled unions;

d) to form part of the ongoing international effort to bridge the "digital divide", by building meaning and utility into the Internet for workers, regardless of country, or economic status.

e) to facilitate employee and public access to a wide variety of union-sponsored services, including apprenticeship and training programmes, health and pension benefits, family and community services, etc.


It should be noted that the registrant database would most likely be managed by the sponsoring group. The arrangement would probably involve the creation of a review body comprising the group's 13 organisations. The body would be empowered to accept or reject an application to become a registrant. A review procedure would be set up, to appeal decisions when and where necessary.

Registrant organisations would be reviewed according to two leading criteria:

a) is the organisation internally democratic? b) Is the organisation free from control by government, political parties, employers or other interests?

These are the necessary conditions for the existence of representative workers' organisations capable of engaging in collective bargaining, within the definitions and jurisprudence established by the United Nations' International Labour Organisation. We intend to explore further refinements to ensure practicality and application. Additional criteria may also be identified and considered as well. It should be noted that non-profit organisations, such as apprenticeship and training organisations, affiliated to approved unions, would also qualify as registrants.

Through the worldwide networks of the ICFTU, and its review body, a system would be devised to screen potential registrants. Applicants not affiliated directly or indirectly to one of the organisations in the sponsoring group would not be excluded from consideration if their organisation is known to be free and democratic.

Registrations of second-level domain names:

A contractor would most likely be responsible for "registry operation". Its responsibility would include the technical management and registration of second-level domain names as well as the billing of approved registrants for those registrations.

We understand, however, from our contacts with ICANN, that this contractor would need to be identified as an integral part of any proposal made, in order to facilitate the rapid introduction of a "test-bed TLD".

It should be noted that a contractor has not yet been identified, and that we feel that our choice of contractor, whose role would be technical, should be evaluated separately from our proposal on the policy for a trade union TLD.

A decision coming from ICANN (or from whatever process ICANN sets up to evaluate proposals), rejecting a contractor mentioned in a proposal from us, should not prejudice any future proposals for a trade union TLD, and indeed, should not prevent a decision being taken, in principle, to support a trade union TLD, subject to the identification of a suitable contractor.

In cases where it is alleged that the names or acronyms of existing trade union organisations have been registered in bad faith, we expect that we will find the machinery of the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) adequate to handle disputes. The sponsoring group would most likely also reserve the right to identify and resolve possible conflicts prior to completion of domain registrations, in order to prevent disputes arising at a later stage.

We are seriously thinking about a range of options for segmenting the TLD space, which would be addressed, should a proposal be forthcoming.

For example, we would consider devising a system for allocating second and third level names for the purpose of avoiding confusion about which unions are involved in a particular second-level domain, and for directing employees to the union branch or local they may be particularly interested in.

Examples: iam.boeing.union, seui.boeing.union, iamlocalxxx.union, seiulocalyyy.union

Segmentation by function is another option we might explore. For example, training.carpenters.union might direct people to carpentry apprenticeships and training links.

Expected size of domain:

It is hard to estimate the number of potential registrations likely to take place in a trade union TLD. The ICFTU's database, for example, contains approximately 2000 trade union organisations. This purpose of this database, however, is primarily to maintain information on international and national trade union organisations, and not union locals or branches, many of which already have their own web site. We expect the overall number of union organisations in the world to be considerably higher - for example, there are about 5,000 registered unions in India and Bangladesh alone. A recent estimate put the figure at 100,000 trade union organisations world-wide.

We would also expect that many union organisations would wish to register several domains in a trade union TLD. For example, the Communications Workers of America already has at least one thousand second- or third-level domain names.

We would also expect that, at least in the early days, trade union organisations from the wealthier industrialised countries would make up a large proportion of the registrations, since the majority of workers with access to the Internet is currently based in these parts of the world. We foresee a strategy to bridge the "digital divide" and promote greater use of the web by unions from developing countries, by making the cost of domain registrations considerably lower for registrants from poorer nations.

Expected use of TLD:

Organisation names: Most union organisations are either registered in ccTLDs (country-level TLDs such as ".uk" or ".za") or in the undifferentiated ".org" domain. Although unions would be free to stick with their existing domain registrations, some union organisations might choose to switch their registrations to a trade union TLD. Others might choose to keep an existing registration, while adding a second.

Examples: cosatu.union, afl-cio.union, cwa.union, icftu.union

Geographic or trade descriptions: Reflecting the way unions have traditionally been structured, it is likely that some registrations might come in the form of descriptions of trades or places:

Examples: bricklayers.union, telecoms.union, seattle.union, ontario.union, merseyside.union, southafricanminers.union, american-painters.union

We would also support the use of a service, product or company name in connection with a trade union TLD.

Unions sponsored services: Union-sponsored services to their members such as training, education and apprenticeship, family and community services, communication, etc.

Example: bricklayers-training.union

3. Indication of the likelihood of submitting a formal application for the proposed TLD

In order to make a decision which is fully backed by the unions we represent around the world, and in order to fulfil our constitutional obligations, we are bound to consult widely (The ICFTU constitution can be found at this URL: Among the international trade union bodies, and the affiliates of those bodies, we are currently holding an internal discussion on whether or not we proceed in making a proposal to ICANN. There are many issues which need to be examined before we proceed, and we may very well decide either not to proceed, or to defer an application for a TLD to a later date (that is, we may decide that it is too early for us to decide to apply to be one of the first "test bed" TLDs).


*    Eric Lee is standing for the ICANN board. Hear more from him on this issue on Labourstart

*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 63 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: Paul Keating's Big Picture
The former Prime Minister is still painting on a broad canvass. He talks to Workers Online about the new economy, fair trade and political chi.
*  Unions: War in the West
Only six months after signing individual staff contracts, the gloss has worn off for some of BHP's Pilbara iron ore workers.
*  Environment: Farmers Fudge DNA Dangers
Farmers have missed the chance to have a meaningful debate into the use of genetically modified crops.
*  International: 'Dot Union' Proposal on the Table
ICANN, the global governing body of Internet domains, has released the following expression of interest in proposing a top-level domain for trade unions
*  Economics: Edge of the Abyss
Political economist Frank Stilwell argues that a constellation of events gives good reason to be worried about the Australian economy.
*  History: Taming the Tigers
Prominent labour historian, Dr Ming Chan, is visiting Australia to report on how workers are faring in the new Hong Kong.
*  Review: Music is Crap
It's already the second half of the first year in the new millenium. Who would have ever predicted a crisis in the popular music industry when we are at such an advanced stage ?
*  Satire: Last Kosovars Found Behind Couch
State Emergency Services personnel were called to a house in Brighton this morning, where the last five remaining Kosovar refugees have been found wedged behind a couch.

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»  The Soapbox
»  Sport
»  Trades Hall
»  Tool Shed

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»  Fair Go on Fair Trade
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