Sep 18

More on the Second Life Strike at IBM

Category: IBM, RL Meets SL, Strike by Stone Culdesac

We posted earlier how the Italian workers for IBM were planning a strike in Second Life to protest the fact that they asked for more wages and IBM said no and actually took away more money, 1,000 euros or about $1300 dollars. New World Notes has an article on it today, and he actually got some interviews from the parties involved.

John Wood of Tigmoo, a blog network for UK labor unions says,

“An Italian labor union RSU is in dispute with IBM– pay negotiations there look like there will be an effective pay cut for very many Italian IBM staffers,” he e-mails me. “The union is expecting hundreds of avatars of Italian IBM workers, as well as IBM staff from around the world, and other trades unionists, to converge flash-mob style later this month, to demonstrate and spread the word about the dispute.”

A Uni Global SL representative, UNIglobalunion Oh, had this to say,

Are you planning to protest on the IBM campus?

UO: Yes we are planning to be present on the IBM sim. But if they throw us out we have other alternatives for our virtual strike!

How many actual IBM employees are expected at the protest, and how many who already work at their SL campus?

UO: It’s hard to predict how many IBM employees will join as most of them have given us their private email addresses to join the strike. A few of them have given IBM addresses, which has just allowed us to confirm the participation of IBM workers in a number of different countries. Indeed, we are expecting 18 countries to participate in the strike– at least. I’m not sure any of them work on the IBM [Second Life] campus! It seems for now we are fighting issues in real life for IBM Italy workers… I’m not sure IBM would appreciate SL workers joining the strike. Yet, they are more than welcome to go on strike with us!

Why is protesting in SL the most effective means of pushing this issue forward?

UO: Protesting in SL is ONE of the means of pushing the issue forward. We need dialog with IBM and a better deal for the thousands of employees in Italy. One of the ways of getting there might be to catch their attention - and the media’s attention - with our planned SL actions. Source: Avatar-based workers unite? Labor union protest against IBM to enter Second Life (Updated)

Now, when I visited their site in Second Life, I was under the impression that it was starting on the 17th of September and running until the 30th, on the New World Notes sites, it says the strike is starting on the 25th and will be held on the IBM campus in Second Life. Here is a response from Jo Grant, avatar Jaymin Carthage, from IBM, who said he knows nothing of the situation is only commenting on what could and should happen in the SL strike.

Humor aside, from a purely technical perspective it is possible to ban or eject people whose presence you don’t wish. But this is not always the right decision. In some circumstances it’s clearly harassment. For example in the French election fracas of a few months ago the protests spread well beyond the lands of the people involved and neighbors had to put up with flying pig bombs. But in the case of an IBM Labor union protesting on IBM land… there is some relevance.

The strict approach would be to exercise full property rights and eject or ban anyone that is not considered beneficial to supporting your business. Your sim costs you money and you expect to get a return on it. Allowing it to be a venue directly against what you consider to be company interests erodes that return and should be acted against. The down side of this approach is that once you start where do you stop? If someone is wearing a competitor’s shirt is that worth ejecting? Who is going to monitor?

The lax approach is to say that if your land is public, that anyone has the right to be there, as long as they follow the same rules you apply to the public. IBM does not allows selling of items or weapons on its land. So with this approach as long as the protesters weren’t armed they would be OK. The problem is that things can get to the point where it is hard to achieve the ends you set up your build for if this is taken to extremes. If these protesters wanted to stage a sit in and bombard all visitors there for weeks on end, that would interfere with the business IBM is trying to conduct there.

In the specific case of the Italian labor union, if it was my choice, I would treat it like a real world protest. I would meet with the leaders (to discuss their protest, not their grievance, that is presumably being taken care of elsewhere). If they were willing to have a non-harassing protest of a set duration I would cooperate with them in having it done. Perhaps providing a company spokesperson in a set location that people witnessing the demonstration could converse with to get the company view on things. Once over it would be business as usual. Not leaflets left by either the company or the protesters giving their views. Source: Political Demonstrations in Second Life

And here is an article from the AFL-CIO Now Blog,

The real world and the cyberworld are coming together to help IBM workers gain a decent contract.

The IBM workers will go on strike in Second Life this month. UNI and the Communications Workers of America, through its Alliance@IBM, are asking all union supporters to join the Italian workers online by joining Second Life and downloading a strike kit. You can do both by clicking here. Source: IBM Employees Go on Strike Online. You Can Join Them

It certainly will be interesting to see how IBM handles this situation, and if I can be, I will be there to check it out. Be sure to get the strike kit and get the free t-shirts, I like this one myself, if nothing else, your avatar can sleep in it. ;)

IBM Union Strike t-shirt

Popularity: 3%

1 Comment so far

  1. johninnit September 18th, 2007 9:49 pm

    I think you both have it half-right on the timings ;)
    James quotes the 25th as campaign public start, but I think the protest itself will be on a still to be announced day between 25th and 30th.

    Mind you, I don’t know for sure, so don’t necessarily take my word on it. Sign up as a demonstrator at the UNI site ( to be the first to find out!

    PS - LOL, I reckon it’s a bit tight to sleep in ;)

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