Thursday, September 27, 2007

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International Union Protesters Converge on IBM: Company refuses comment, strike leaders claim success, 1850 total attendance (including bananas and geometric dissenters)

Ibm_protest_babe

As the labor union strike finally came to a close a couple hours ago, protest leader (and Italian IBM staffer) Barillo Kohnke looked out over the crowd of several dozen still there at the IBM Italia region, and declared victory:

Main_hub_protest_beginning "A BIG SUCCESS !!! THANKS TO ALL," he shouted. "AFTER 12 HOURS THE PROTEST IS FINISHING... LET'S SEE THE REACTIONS OF IBM TOMORROW.  PLEASE STAY REGISTERED IN THE PROTEST MAILING LIST TO BE UPDATED."

The strike began in the early morning today (round Midnight, Second Life Time) and when I visited IBM's main hub, a crowd was already gathering.

Ibm_italia_protest_beginning_2Most of the activity seemed to be concentrated on the IBM Italia region on the corporate campus-- unsurprising, since the protest is over a paycut impacting Italian  workers of the company.  In any case, they continued streaming in, and the leaders kept count of unique visitors.  At the end, the Uni Global Second Life spokesman told me they'd counted 1850 in all. 

What IBM management thinks of all this is still unclear; I talked to several staffers on campus during the strike, and they declined comment.  A senior IBM staffer watched the protest from a distance, but when I asked to take a screenshot, he promptly vanished into the metaverse aether.

Strike_leader_barillo_kohnke
Barillo Kohnk

"We tried to discuss with IBM management but no way," Kohnke tells me. "We had only a tech contact with the IBM project manager of IBM Italy sim, to check some security problems (griefers' attacks)."  (It's unclear whether he meant IBM thought the protesters were themselves griefers, or it involved unrelated individuals.)

"IBM did not officially react to our protest so far," a post-protest e-mail from the organizers stated.  "However, they did shut down parts of their Business Centre to visitors (or really, protesters.)  A number of participants managed to crash an IBM staff meeting during the afternoon-- where they were immediately asked to leave and to 'protest outside'."  Protesters demanded to speak with management there, the announcement continues, but instead, the meeting was abruptly ended.

Ibm_work_continues

As the protest rolled on, IBM Second Life staffers continued working.  I tried to get a comment from these two employees, but one offered a terse "No comment" and the other said nothing at all.  (Above, the Italian protesters are just visible in the background, at the far right.)

Wladskyberger_boulevard_protesters

Protesters gathered down Irving Wladawsky-Berger Boulevard-- ironic, perhaps, for it's named after the company's Chairman Emeritus, who was instrumental in moving IBM into Second Life.

Protest_babes_2

As with any Second Life gathering, the protesters were diverse in character, avatar babes shoulder to shoulder with geometric shapes and sentient fruit who also saw cause to join the dissent.

Bananas_and_triangles_join

And as with most real world protests, this one also attracted off-message sign-wavers.  For instance, I asked this humanoid stack of square discs what Korea had to with the strike.

Off_message_protester

"Is that what it says?" the stack of discs replied, surprised.  Someone had handed it to them, they told me, but couldn't tell what the sign read.  And the discs excused themselves, and went off to locate a more fitting message. 

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference International Union Protesters Converge on IBM: Company refuses comment, strike leaders claim success, 1850 total attendance (including bananas and geometric dissenters):

» Labor Strife in Second Life? from Econ-Atrocity / Econ-Utopia
New World Notes has a story concerning Italian IBM workers in a contract dispute. The twist is, theyre planning a labor action at IBMs virtual campus in Second Life, the online game world. Apparently this is the first virtual labor action... [Read More]

» Bananas and triangles protest IBM in Second Life from Boing Boing
Wagner James Au has a writeup and pictures from a recent "in-world" labor protest that took place in Second Life. The company in question: IBM. The aggrieved: 1850 avatars, including some bananas and triangles. Link. Previously:Strikers picket IBM in ... [Read More]

» IBM Italian Union Labor Strike (in SL) from Wesley Miaw - Blog
This hasn't been covered by the MSM as far as I can tell, but apparently IBM is reducing the pay for some of its employees in Italy as labor union negotiations have failed. Many of the affected IBMers held a... [Read More]

Comments

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rikomatic

Was anything done to confirm how many of the "protesters" were actual IBM employees, and not, say interested bystanders or press?

Hamlet Au

The organizers told me they had a counter they were using to track registrants, and that's the figure they had at the end; that's why I say "claim 1850". However, based on the number of protesters I saw when there and assuming the traffic rates held up when I wasn't, I think that's a plausible claim. With protests, of course, there's always a debate on what the actual numbers were.

Jaymin Carthage

The 1850 number is a fair amount higher than what my cameras counted, but not by much more than the differences in counts between protesters and police in real life. :-) My cameras were just the normal ones to track traffic, and weren't specifically placed to count protesters. And we all know that counting people in Second Life is not an exact science. I've dived in a little deeper in my blog above (such as IBMers vs non-IBMers). But I'm not an official IBM spokesperson so it's still pretty vague. Hopefully in a few days I'll be able to post raw numbers for everyone to argue over. :-)
JC

Hamlet Au

Please do!

This is like during a real world anti-war protest, do you count the Free Mumia crowd who always showsup? It's just that here, the question is do you count the banana and the triangle and anti-Korea stack of discs?

Christine

Free counters in SL aren't very sophisticated...and the others are very expensive.
The founder of Envirolink and owner of the Commonwealth Island placed 3 free counters on the Central Platform that recorded unique visitors every 5 seconds. This is how we got to those figures. I think what matters is that a lot of people came to the event, IBMers or not! And what matters even more is what will we do next if IBM don't go back to the negotiations table to discuss a better deal for its workers in Italy?

Barillo Kohnke

Breakthrough at IBM Italy

One month after a virtual protest staged in Second Life with almost 2’000 avatars demonstrating on IBM islands, a new contract with IBM Italy has been signed.

The new agreement, which still needs to be approved by the IBM Italy workforce, reinstates the performance bonus that was cut unilaterally by IBM Italy management.

The agreement signed by IBM Italy and the trade union Rappresentanze Sindacali Unitarie (R.S.U.) not only includes the performance bonuses from 2007 up until 2010 but also payments by IBM into a national health insurance fund and also states that negotiations will continue with respect to IBM industrial and business strategies in Italy and the improvement of internal communication policies.

The situation abruptly improved and negotiation resumed after the former country manager left IBM in the mid of October, who had signed responsible for the pay cuts in the first place. His departure cleared the air and facilitated constructive negotiations between social partners as this could be expected from a professional management of a high-tech company.

The virtual demonstration organized on 27 September for a whole day has certainly had an impact on the positive development. Almost 2’000 virtual protestors from 30 countries populating IBM premises in Second Life solicited an unprecedented media echo from all over the world, including TV and radio stations, daily news papers, computer and business magazines. The virtual protest had been supported by global unions such as the International and European Metalworkers Federations (IMF and EMF) and UNI Global Union.

The threat of strike action in the “real world” by the Italian unions after the virtual protest has certainly also helped to break the deadlock. Yet, the impact of this historical action in Second Life must not be underestimated.

More info here

Awesome post, good job condensing the information

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