Trade unions and social media in Brazil

Brazilian trade unions seem to be years ahead of their counterparts in the rest of the world. Maybe it’s because of the sheer size of the country that has lead union activists to embrace new technology, but the Brazilian unions are showing a level of innovation that is rare elsewhere.

This TV programme ‘Clique Ligue’ on union-owned TV station RedeTVT explores the unions’ creative use of new technology to organise. Activists from the metal workers’ union CNM/CUT – a union USi has a close relationship with – and food workers’ union Contac share their experiences.

New media is used to enhance the unions’ communication, and is not seen as a replacement for branch meetings and newsletters. However, using email, text messaging, Twitter and Facebook has enabled them to reach more people and give members a voice.

The activists also talk about the changing role of unions: they no longer only negotiate on terms and conditions, but campaign for the environment and gender and racial equality, and work with social movements to build a fairer society.

The Brazilian unions campaign actively for digital inclusion, and say that the two main issues are access to broadband – which is still patchy outside of the cities – and training. The unions provide training for their activists in using new technology politically.

There is also a discussion with a labour sociologist about how new media influences the ideas workers hold, and counter acts a lot of the negative propaganda in the media. Unions also make important information easily accessible, which is invaluable for reps who are entering negotiations for better conditions.

The sociologist argues that although Facebook and Twitter are excellent for reaching people, we can’t rely on them in the long run, because they are private companies and their aims are not necessarily congruent with that of the labour movement. The union movement needs to work with Free and Open Source Software to prevent the proprietary software monopoly from stifling our organising.

Well worth a watch – we can all learn something from our Brazilian comrades. Thanks to Marcelo Godoy and Valter Sanches.

A full transcript is available here.

- With thanks to Orlando Martins for the subtitle translations.

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