Agaric Collective: Support Independent Labor Journalism and Free Software Tools

Striking Chicago teachers marching in the street, carrying a banner
Chicago teachers were one example of the hundreds of thousands of workers who went on strike this year winning higher wages, improved working conditions and better services for their communities. Credit: Scott Heins / Getty Images

In 2018, workers rediscovered the power of the strike with nearly 500,000 people walking off the job, compared to just 25,000 in 2017. This year has proven even more of the same, with 442,700 stopping work through September.

Portside is an independent news outlet of labor activists who volunteer their time to scour the web for thoughtful, authentic coverage and analysis of worker power. In June they won the “Labor Communicator of the Year” as a result of their efforts.

Getting meaningful information on strikes is difficult. Just six corporations own 90% of media in the US. Executives like Jeff Bezos and Rupert Murdoch have a vested interest in downplaying worker power. That coupled with sophisticated misinformation campaigns and obscure social media algorithms, it’s hard to cut to what’s happening on the ground.

We work with Portside to help them reach as many people as possible. In 2018 we upgraded the site from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8, optimizing the website for mobile devices and adding moderation tools to make editors’ lives easier.

This year we sent out a survey to readers to learn what else would be helpful to provide the coverage so many are seeking in these politically charged moments.

Nearly 500 people responded, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. That said, there’s always room for improvement.

In 2019, we hope to roll out the following features to help us all follow and support the labor movement and left in general.

* Improved “Related News” functionality – Right now the articles suggested are a bit hit or miss. We need time to adjust and improve our algorithm for this.
* Create “Issue” pages – the Bolivia coup, the Rojava Revolution, the Chicago Teachers’ Strike… the number of progressive, transformative, and often revolutionary movements gaining traction is dizzying. Portside provides excellent coverage, but not in a long-term, coherent way. Issue pages will help us follow breaking news, with the broader context we need to be in meaningful solidarity. Editors are already hard at work cleaning up the tagging system for articles. We just need the time to design and build out these issue pages to better serve readers.
Just these two improvements will make a real difference to how well we can stay informed of what our fellow workers are up to and how we can support them.

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