SILICON LOUNGE: Breaking the Bank

The omen was scrawled in colorful chalk on a sidewalk in my neighborhood where more strollers than agitators typically congregate: "protest the IMF and World Bank, April 16-17, www.a16.org." Though many government officials, reporters, and regular folk were blindsided by the raucous protests of the seattle world trade Organization meetings in November, others knew it was coming -- thanks largely to online organizing. Now the rabble is coming back, marching on Washington, D.C., the week of April 9-16. Emboldened by their successes in the Northwest, labor unions, students, human-rights activists, and other malcontents are planning to raise their voices and fists again against global trade and financial policies when the International Monetary Fund and World Bank come to town.There's no need to hear about this one only after the fact. Just join the thousands surfing the wave of vocal dissent on the Net. In the September issue of America@Work, the AFL-CIO credits virtual organizing -- using Web sites, e-mails, and listservs -- as the primary tool for rekindling interest, especially among students, in the labor movement. That only makes sense: 57 percent of all unionized workers have home computers, according to a 1999 survey by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, cited in the union magazine."E-mail and Web sites give organizers powerful tools to communicate with workers who are struggling to gain a voice on the job -- effectively and conveniently for technologically proficient workers," writes the AFL-CIO's Laureen Lazarovici. She points union members to sites that offer everything from a fun quiz on workplace issues to the AFL-CIO's Paywatch site (paywatch.org). She also credits the Internet with giving Microsoft's temporary workers an immediate tool to drum up attention to their on-the-job grievances.Dissidents relished the power of online organizing in Seattle, and if anything, the Internet is even more packed with details this time around. Who's protesting what? When? Where? How do you get there? The following sites will clue you in.Mobilization for Global Justice (a16.org): The group ballyhooed in Central Park is gunning for the IMF and the World Bank. "De-Fund the Fund! Break the Bank! Dump the Debt!" the site implores. The group calls the Seattle protests the "coming-out party" and says the next logical step is to take on the instruments of the world economy. "The IMF and World Bank are in many ways the 'parents' of the WTO; they operate together to preserve corporate power and constrain the rights and opportunities of the majority of the world's people," it says. The site gives "convergence" details: where to find medical help, what to bring, and tips for housing, camping, etc. You can also donate online and sign up for e-mail alerts.Fifty Years Network (50years.org): The U.S. Network for Global Economic Justice links to a booklet, False Profit: Who Wins, Who Loses When the IMF, World Bank and WTO Come to Town? The site gives details of specific conferences along with fact sheets and an online endorsement form. Fifty Years also displays its demands, including that the IMF and World Bank cancel all debts owed them and pay immediate reparations to people kicked out of homes and villages or otherwise harmed by its programs. The site even shows some cool color photos of previous protests in progress.Jubilee 2000/USA (j2000usa.org): This coalition of people of many faiths is gathering on April 9 and 10 to demand debt relief for developing countries. A "massive public witness" on the Washington Mall April 9 will feature archbishop of Tegucigalpa Oscar Rodriguez, AFL-CIO executive vice president Linda Chavez-Thompson, Rabbi David Saperstein, the African band Waza Bakula, and the Grace Lutheran Church Rainbow Choir. Leaders will organize a "massive human chain," for which protesters are encouraged to bring paper chains and trumpets.Independent Media Center (indymedia.org): Get real-time updates during the protests from this group's frontline reports. Or sign up with stop-imf@venice.essentials.org to receive current press coverage of the events.AFL-CIO Global Fairness (aflcio.org/globaleconomy/global-fairness.htm): The AFL-CIO is organizing "Rally and Lobby Day: No Blank Check for China," to be held at noon on April 12 on the steps of the Capitol. The labor giant opposes Washington's likely granting of permanent normal trade relations status to China, for which the technology industry is lobbying hungrily. If the status is approved, Congress would halt annual reviews of China's human-rights record. "Insist that China end its suppression of freedom of speech, of religion, and of association," the AFL-CIO urges.United Students Against Sweatshops (umich.edu/~sole/usas/calendar): USAS, an increasingly powerful group that kicked up its share of Seattle dirt, is already calling for direct action from April 9 to 16, especially at the IMF rally on the 16th. "What we asserted at the WTO must be repeated to the rulers of the global economy. We must make clear, again, that the peoples' movements of the world will not stand idly by while those holding power continue to impoverish and oppress the majority of the world's peoples and ravage the earth's environment and resources while enriching themselves and corporations," the site states. You can sign up for USAS's action e-mail alerts on the site.

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