May First Orientation

May First is an organization with a long history and many moving parts. This page is a collection of links to help orient you to our history and how we operate.

Who we are: Our Members, Mission and Program

May First is a movement building membership organization that focuses on technology.

As of 2020, we have 635 members in good standing, most are based in the United States, about 20% are based in Mexico and the rest spread out around the world.

About 23 of our members are organizations and the rest are individuals.

Our member organizations range from large organizations like Media Justice, CWA Local 1180, National Network of Abortion Funds and more to small street medic collectives, media production groups, and community organizations.

The issue areas range from universal healthcare to Palestinian rights to immigrant freedom and many many more.

Our mission, as approved by our membership in 2015, is:

May First engages in building movements by advancing the strategic use and collective control of technology for local struggles, global transformation, and emancipation without borders.

Our program, while complex, varied and changing, fundamentally flows from two inter-related areas:

  1. Movement work: engaging the broader left movement in conversation about the fundamental role of technology in our fight for a more just world and helping to develop a strategy for change that centers technology.

  2. Technology infrastructure and services: collectively running our own Internet-based technology services for our members to provide privacy and stability for critical movement activities and showcase and experiment with technology based on our values.

History and culture

When did May First begin? Was is 1994? 2005? Read more about the key points in our organization’s history.

Throughout our history, we have made a commitment to the leadership of people traditionally excluded from technology, which was formalized into a statement of intentionality on combatting racism and sexism.

Our culture also includes an agreement on how we interact with each other that identifies the behaviors and practices we strive for and those we try to avoid and also tips on scheduling and running meetings.

Mexico

As you can read from our history, we have a special relationship with activists and movement organizations in Mexico. The details are in the by-laws and the history document, but here is a quick summary.

May First is an international organization - we have members from all over the world and welcome anyone no matter where you live.

However, May First started in the United States and most members are based in the US. In 2011, the historic Mexican alternative Internet provider LaNeta decided to stop providing hosting services and asked if May First would consider absorbing their members. We agreed, and the LaNeta members approved, resulting in our first substantial number of members from a country other then the US (about 20%).

This arrangment aligned with our organization’s political vision - not only the idea that borders do not stop our movement building, but specifically recognizing the importance of the relationship between the movements of the US and Mexico, given the border, the economic pressures, xenophobia and racism that have distorted this relationship.

Although Mexican members are members just like anyone else, we have included in our by-laws a provision to reserve a number of board members from Mexico proportionate to the representation of Mexican members in our membership.

Structure and decision making

We have one of the most diverse leadership of any technology organization. To learn more, see our board membership page!

Our by-laws define the minimal requirements of our structure and decision making.

The by-laws state:

  • The membership elects 80% of the board, and staff chooses the remaining 20%. We currently have 24 board members.

  • The Workers Support committee of the Board hires and fires workers (workers include people who are paid and unpaid). Currently, we have three workers: Alfredo Lopez and Jaime Villarreal (paid) and Jamie McClelland (volunteer).

However, there is much more to our structure and decision making than what is defined in the by-laws.

For example, the board typically asks our members to help build a set of priorities for the coming year and then rank them in terms of importance at our annual membership meetings (see our current priorities).

The Board typically reviews these priorities and writes a work plan for the coming year (see our 2020 workplan).

The work is typically managed by a coordination team that meets weekly. The coordination team also organizes other ad-hoc and standing teams to carry out other work, such as an admin team, infrastructure and services team, resource usage team, membership meeting planning team, and others. These teams meet as needed.

And, the workers also meet weekly, separately from the coordination team to ensure all work assigned is completed.

All teams can be made up of both board members and non-board members.

Then, at the end of each year, we evaluate how well we have implemented those plans during our membership meeting where we also come up with next year’s priorities.

How are proposals made? How do I get involved?

Typically, most major decisions either start with the team that it is relevant to, or are sent to a team to be discussed and developed.

For example, a proposal to change the dues structure was first developed in the Technology Resource and Usage team. The plan for the membership meeting was developed in a special team setup to plan the meeting.

Next, they move to the coordination team (or sometimes, they might start at the coordination team).

If the decision is minor, or clearly within the scope of the already defined workplan, then it might end with the coordination team and the staff will begin working on it.

Otherwise, it goes to the board for a vote.

If the decision requires a change to the by-laws, then it must go to the membership meeting for a final approval. Otherwise, the board may decide to send it to the membership meeting or not.

Responsibilities of Board Members

Board members are elected for 3 year terms. The minimum requirements of being a board member are:

  • Attend four, 1.5 hour online board meetings per year
  • Spend up to 1 hour per week reading and responding to email
  • Attend the annual membership meeting.

In addition, board members are asked to participate in as many teams as they have the capacity for. That ranges from the coordination team (which meets weekly) to the admin teams which may meet only once or twice per year.

Finances

May First workers are responsible for presenting a financial report to the board every year. See our 2019 Financial Report.

The board is responsible for approving the budget, based on the workplan, each year.

Tools

The main communications tools we use:

  • Email lists: all board members are subscribed to an email discussion list. The coordination team also has a list. Other work teams employ their own communication tools.

  • Nextcloud: The board and all workgroups rely heavily on our Nextcloud document storage system. We have folders for all committees and take regular notes for all committee meetings. Most proposals are written and saved in Nextcloud and final reports are kept here as well.

  • Discourse: Our Discourse server is a web-based discussion forum for members to comment on topics and proposal. We heavily use Discourse during our member meetings - so members can choose either to come to a live meeting if the schedule lines up, or participate asynchronously via the Discourse system.

  • Mumble: For all live meetings we use the mumble app. Mumble is an audio-only conferencing system. We use mumble because it support simultaneous interpretation and also because it works for people with old computers and poor Internet connections.