I have not seen much material from trade union activist directly mentioning the importance of peer production as Scottish “Cyber Unions” activist Panton Waltland does in this article that takes as starting point, the Wikileaks affair:
It is important to see Wikileaks not as the isolated project of the maverick cyber pimpernel Julian Assange, but as part of a much wider cultural and social movement to free information from state and corporate control. I argued previously that unions should embrace open source and creative commons, and in my thesis I suggest briefly that we are moving from distributed discourse – technology facilitating easy communication – to distributed production, with people working collaboratively to produce new products, like Wikipedia and Linux.
After discussion and quoting an article by Alastair Davidson on peer production, Waltland concludes:
“This has never been done before. We have never had mass, voluntary, gift economy collaboration that has resulted in complex and effective end products. What is remarkable about this project is that it has managed to honour individual freedom while also facilitating mass collaboration, with divisions of labour, hierarchies of expertise and specialisations.
If Marx said that the free development of each is necessary for the free development of all, I can’t think of a clearer example of this in practice. There is a strongly individualistic – Davidson calls it ‘crypto-anarchist’ – tendency amongst a lot of hackers themselves, who probably occupy the same social position as Proudhon’s skilled artisans. But the fact that hackers have been drawn to libertarianism is largely due to the absolute failure of the left to understand where the class line runs through the information wars.”
Specifically regarding the implications for unions, he writes:
“By facilitating sharing, we can vastly enrich the cultural life and education of the world. Therefore it is disappointing to see some unions line up in defence of copyright, which is an outdated model that attempts to turn pieces of information into commodities that can be sold – to the advantage of employers, rather than individual workers. It is more important to argue that workers are paid a fair rate for work done, and not base wages on the price the commodity fetches in the market.”