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July 2003   

Interview: As They Say In The Bible ...
One the movement�s great characters, Public Service Association general secretary Maurie O�Sullivan, is calling it a day. He looks back on his career with Workers Online.

Industrial: Just Doing It
Sportswear giant, Nike, is the first company to sign off on an agreement that purports to protect Australian clothing workers, wherever they labour, writes Jim Marr.

Unions: Breaking Into the Boys Club
For a 23-year-old woman who has never worked in the trade, recruiting young construction apprentices into the union has its challenges, reports Carly Knowles.

Activists: Making the Hard Yards
Mal Cochrane came to the smoke as part of an Aboriginal avalanche that redefined the face of Rugby League. Today, he serves his community through the trade union movement.

Bad Boss: In the Pooh
What do you give a boss who makes his workers labour in raw sewage? A nomination for the Tonys.

Unions: National Focus
In the national wrap Noel Hester finds a Victorian Misso delo who is redistributing lucre from Eddie McGuire into workers� theatre, South Australian unions taking that Let�s Get Real stuff seriously, an American unionist fronts up at a distinguished �meeting of the brains� in Adelaide and a look at the line up for ACTU Congress.

Economics: Pop Will Eat Itself
Dick Bryan wonders if we can be insured against pop economists promising financial nirvana as well as financial market instability.

Technology: Dean for President
Paul Smith looks at how the internet is helping one Democrat candidate to the front of the primary pack

International: Rangoon Rumble
Union Aid Abroad's Marj O'Callaghan looks at Australia's weak response to developments in Burma.

Education: Blackboard Jungle
Lifelong learning shouldn�t mean cutting jobs, but that's exactly what the Carr Government is proposing, argues Tony Brown

Review: From Weakness to Strength
Labor Council crime-fighter Chris Christodoulou catches up with his boyhood hero, the Incredible Hulk

Poetry: Downsized
Resident bard David Peetz pens the song the Industrial Relations Commission needed to hear


The Soapbox
Cleaning Up
Rabbi Laurie Coskey from San Diego adds her voice to the global campaign for just for cleaners in Westfield malls.

The Locker Room
The Name In The Game
In an age of the sportsperson as celebrity it seems that names are overtaking the games, writes Phil Doyle.

The Beach
Southern Thailand�s terrorist activities: facts or fiction asks HT Lee


A Recipe for Conflict
Without making any excuses, Tony Abbott�s hand wringing at this week�s airing of a secret video of picket line violence was a bit like watching Don King condemn boxing.


 Aussie Workers Cradle-Snatched

 Morris McMahon Workers Say Thanks

 Violence: Emerson Fingers Abbott

 Cowboys Face Contracts Ban

 TUTA Rises From the Ashes

 Teased Teachers Fight Back

 Labor Fails TAFE Test

 Coke Called on to Stop the Rot

 Bridgestone Drops Doughnut on Workers

 AIRC Locked in Dark Ages

 Maternity Breakthrough in Hotels

 Labour Rights: Even Bush is Better!

 Long Winter for Seasonal Workers

 Activist Notebook

 A Tribute to Brian Miller
 Orange Peel
 After the Accident
 Cuba - the Debate Continues
 Old Ted
 Greetings from Japan
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Dean for President

Paul Smith looks at how the internet is helping one Democrat candidate to the front of the primary pack


Howard Dean will be the next President of the United States, Jock Gill, the Clinton advisor who put the White House online and the President's email public, told the meeting of Dean supporters I attended.

The reason for this prediction is because Dean is the first Presidential candidate to understand that the internet is powerful tool for grassroots self organising and to use it as a means of harvesting discontent with top down politics.

Before you laugh at this geek fantasy, consider that in last 3 months Dean has raised more money than any of the corporate candidates seeking the Democratic nomination and has created a network of 55,000 activists who meet regularly in hundreds of places across America. Dean won 139360 votes (43%) of leading Democrat political action fund Move On members online primary, way ahead of the other eight candidates.

A new reality in political campaigning

Dean's success has stunned the conventional wisdom of Washington centered politics. Dean's campaign understands what insiders don't.

  • People want to support a candidate that genuinely stands for something,
  • They have desire for people to participate as citizens in politics rather than passively consumers,
  • The internet provides the democratic communications medium that allows leaders and citizens to converse and connect

Howard Dean is the five term governor of Vermont, a small new England state previously only famous for Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream and Bernie Sanders the America's only Socialist congressman. His Presidential candidacy was as improbable as that fictional New England Governor Jeb Bartlett . It would have undoubtedly would have been crowded out by the declared conventional candidates except for the Iraq war.

Where leading contenders Joe Lieberman , Richard Gephardt, John Kerry and John Edwards all voted in Congress to support the war, Dean stood against it. In doing so Dean became a hero to Democrats who are sick of their party seeking to be indistinguishable from the Republicans. Dean used the opportunity to steadfastly promoting a pugnacious, optimistic, forward-looking message across a range of issues and couple it with a campaign organization smart enough to let his supporters help him.

People powered campaign

The use of Meet Up technology where people can arrange their own local meetings to meet up with like minded people where they decide what they will decide to do for the campaign. Last Wednesday over 300 meetings were self-organised for over 55,000 without any central direction. Unlike the other campaigns the supporters feel like they own the campaigns because they make decisions about what they will do next.

I attended one of these Meet Up's in London, where Jock Gill spoke. A group of people who had never met before decided they were together going to do their bit to defeat George Bush. The feeling was 'Together we could make a difference'. This is the power behind the campaign of people who felt powerless who now feel they have power.

The donations reflect the 'People powered Howard' campaign theme .The average size of a Dean contribution is $72 , including 48,000 people who have never donated before. A lot of small donations over the internet beat the other Democrats corporate fundraising. A showdown next year between the obscene levels donated by America's corporations for Bush and peoples pennies is on the cards.

Good bye focus group. Hello blog

To visit Dean's Blog for America is to understand that the web is not a brochure or one way medium like TV. A blog is a discussion board where people have a conversation.

On Dean's blog, the message-board threads have acted as constant, ongoing, focus groups for everything the Dean says and does. Plenty of ideas adopted by the campaign start out on the threads of the Dean blogs, say Dean campaign aides, and the Dean for America Internet team is constantly updating and modifying the site in response to the posts. Dean himself blogs with supporters.

The blog reveals a startling level of intimacy and transparency about the campaign. It is something alive and involving them for the thousands of supporters. The power of the campaign is not so much in the use of technology but what it empowering opportunity it provides. To quote one blogger:

I think the media and other candidates think Dr. Dean's power comes from the internet and it doesn't... it's just a tool that lets us hear each other, when big money and the media want to tune the people out. It's what Dr. Dean has to say and who he is as a person that motivates me and to get involved."

This seems to be the key as people seem to be supporting Dean because other people they know and trust are supporting Dean. The campaign magnifies the voices of friends and relatives above the voices of those with influence or power.

This is the truly democratic revolution behind Dean's campaign.

What it means for labor

Organised Labor in the US is watching the Dean campaign closely. The AFL-CIO intends to meet latter this year with the aim of maximising Labor's support behind the candidate that it believes can deliver for workers in the Primaries. Dean has the endorsement of the Vermont Federation of Labor and enjoyed a 100% COPE voting record as a governor but Dennis Kucinich John Edwards and Richard Gephardt are strongly promoting their labor credentials as well. Certainly the adding the considerable resources of the AFL-CIO Working Families online campaign resource centre would be a powerful fit with Dean's impressive campaign.

Its a long way to the first official vote are held in Iowa and New Hampshire and even longer to November 2004. Whatever the outcome there are lessons for Labor in Australia as well. If there ever was an example of how technology could be used to support the organising model of Unionism, this is it. For Federal labor looking for harness a loathing of Howard in an electorate that finds them uninspiring, it shows the benefits of reaching out and speaking up for you supporters, and allowing them to speak for themselves.

Dean's announcement of his candidacy declared his faith that old style citizen driven politics with new technology can defeat Bush .

We are the great grassroots campaign of the modern era, built from mouse pads, shoe leather and hope.

Indeed we can only hope.


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