Blog: Legal Aid in China

As Shanghai Disneyland opens, Disney toy workers protest

While the Chinese media celebrates the opening of Shanghai Disneyland this week, claiming it to be a big boost to China’s recreation and real estate industries, Chinese workers who produced Disney's toys are protesting unjust treatment.

Thousands of factories move from China to southeast Asia each year to take advantage of even cheaper labour and rent.

Re-examining the role of labor suppression in economic development

These arguments are based on outdated assumptions and broad generalizations about the role of labor in economic development. In fact, organized labor often plays a positive role in economic growth, undergirding greater political stability, workshop discipline, and smart growth policy contributions. Governments need to reexamine economic policies that assume a relationship between economic development and labor repression, and adjust policies to reflect current reality.

Improving the Lives of Chinese Sanitation Workers

Chinese sanitation workers may benefit from studying the experience of their comrades in the U.S.  Recently, janitors in the Twin Cities won full-time green jobs, better health insurance and a new contract by negotiating with their employers. The janitors united and engaged their employers with one voice. As a vulnerable, underpaid group, forming a union was essential to their success. Efforts like the Guangzhou Federation of Trade Union’s organizing of construction workers could be expanded to include sanitation workers.

Economic Crisis, Buy American, and Sweatfree Organizing

The "Buy American" movement that has accompanied the push for economic stimulus has created space for discussing fundamental changes to the rules that have gutted local economies. At its best, this movement is inspired by a sense of solidarity with American workers, caring for our neighbors, and a genuine desire to revitalize local economies. At its best, the movement's message does not stop at "Buy American," which right now could include underground factories in Los Angeles or New York City where U.S. companies profit off the backs of hard-working immigrant workers earning less than the minimum wage. As a first step, we should put "Buy Union" back in "Buy American." Changing business as usual cannot mean replacing overseas sweatshops with U.S. sweatshops.

Why “Buy America” is Not Going to Start a Global Trade War (And Why Our Tax Dollars Should Not be Spent on Sweatshops)

As I have stated, we do not believe protectionism helps workers either here or abroad. A trade war among developed nations, or between developed and developing nations, would be a devastating turn of events as nations struggle to deal with the impacts of the global economic crisis. However, given the vast disparity in policy responses among both OECD and G-20 nations, it is unlikely in the extreme that any nation would be the first to "go nuclear" in this sense. The UK and France are struggling to make peace with their own domestic labor movements' demonstrations over unpopular policies.

Working for Scrooge: 5 Worst Companies for the Right to Associate

ILRF's list of companies is titled "Working for Scrooge: 5 Worst Companies for the Freedom of Association."  The companies that made this year's list include:

A trusted family-brand in the U.S., Nestlé’s true impact overseas
involves a long history of union intimidation and ties to murders of
trade unionists.

Considering its operations in the two most dangerous countries for
trade unionists, it is no surprise that Dole has been accused of
illegal measures to prevent union formation.

Economic Crisis China Style

Another thing that was mentioned to me was that the Chinese
government is keeping track of factories to make sure that they don't
run away in the middle of the night in order to maintain some social
stability.  There is a deep concern that with so much unemployment and
so many workers that are owed back wages, workers may begin to lash
out.  The government in some cases is now requiring factories to notify
them when before they want to close.  It also seems that the government
has in some cases been paying the wages owed to the factory workers
when the factory owners disappear.  You can see more on recent worker
protests here.


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