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The Chinese Unionise Wal-Mart 2006

At the high-rise Beijing headquarters of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) on 30/1/2007, I asked Ms Guo Chen from the Grass-Roots Organization and Capacity Building Department to go through their steps of unionising Wal-Mart. Why? The retailer Wal-Mart is the largest anti-union company in the world. The China union breakthrough is a significant achievement. The ACFTU reputation was it unionised top-down with management approval. Arguably Wal-Mart was different, bottom up. Does this herald a shift from the unique Chinese servicing model to an organising model of unionism? Can the ACFTU be an effective collective bargaining voice for Chinese workers? How does the Australian labour movement engage with the ACFTU?

The organising

First, what happened at Wal-Mart? I asked about the organising steps. Ms Guo Chen in the Department organising in non-public enterprises, with the focus on western corporations, made her report. This is my version of what she said. She knew the process, as she was involved since Wal-Mart China set up in 1996.

For years, the regional ACFTU’s reported back to central Beijing that Wal-Mart managers opposed unions. Local union organisers were concerned how local Wal-Mart management always rebuffed them, repeating, ‘our workers do not want to join. We are reluctant to have our Chinese workers in the union.’ Other multi-national corporations used the Wal-Mart line. The 2003 ACFTU Congress resolved to set up unions in Wal-Mart. In 2004, unionising foreign companies was publicly debated. A National People’s Congress (NPC) committee in a nationwide inspection reported on the enforcement of China’s Trade union law. There is a legal right for 25 workers to start a local union committee in an enterprise, and join as part of the ACFTU. Since then, the ACFTU at the national and local level held meetings to unionise Wal-Mart. In 2005, again the request was made to each regional city union organisation and to local trade union cadres in branches to talk to local management in Wal-Mart stores and ask them to allow their workers to be in the union. This was done, but again rebuffs. In Nanjing the Trade Union Council was rebuffed 28 times. Wal-Mart China Head Office is in Shenzhen City, Guangdong Province and was targeted, but the management did not change. In the consultation process, all the store heads rejected the ACFTU approach saying they were under instructions from Head Office China. Their workers did not want to join. The ACFTU’s usual top-down attempts did not succeed.

In 2005, the ACFTU strategy turned to the workers, strengthening their resolve. Normally the ACFTU did not organise from the bottom up, as happens elsewhere where unions face hostile management. But elsewhere, unions had not succeeded in Wal-Mart. By 2006, Wal-Mart was expanding its 60 chain stores in 30 cities with more workers employed. Wal-Mart’s headquarters was rebuffing the ACFTU headquarters. An article of concern in the Chinese business news came to the ACFTU attention ‘Is Wal-Mart or Chinese ACFTU the more powerful?’ The ACFTU leadership put pressure on the Grass Roots Organising Department to focus again on Wal-Mart. There were debates on resourcing. In July 2006, ACFTU Vice Chairman Xu Deming gathered together the trade union heads and the organisers for a large meeting, that after debate, resolved:

1. mobilise all workers in Wal-Mart into the union;

2. give planning attention to a public campaign in the mass media, TV and extensive leafleting and pamphlets etc;

3. increase the investment materially and manpower for unionisation;

4. the legal provision is to be enforced. Management cannot prevent workers from joining and hindering or limiting is illegal. Business investing in China must abide by Chinese laws.

5. increase investment in dealing with those workers who have been punished unfairly or mistreated by management; improve low wages and conditions.

The local union cadres went out to do this with various means. In front of Wal-Mart exits, organisers were active handing out flyers and leaflets urging joining. Union pamphlets showed the benefits of joining with special offers for services. Local cadres met workers in restaurants and in their dormitories and homes at night. Reports came in that young women were too scared to join, as management would sack or discriminate against them. Trade union cadres complained to management pointing out the law allowing workers to join. Management said their workers did not want to join. The union locally discussed how to go forward. Wal-Mart’s rude and arrogant attitude was put in the newspapers. Journalists reported the contest, leading to public outcry.

Victory

Then on 29th July 2006, the first trade union committee in the world was formed in Wal-Mart, Jinjiang Store in Quanzhou City, China’s coastal province of Fujian. This was in secret, at night to include night and day shifts, with executive members of the union committee elected with Ke Yunlong the young 29 year old meat-packer as the leader and Chair and thumbprints to record their union oath. Their names were kept secret at the local level so as to not give information to management. With the first 30 joining, the feeling was that it was historic. There was celebration, the singing of the Internationale, and photos and speeches from Ke Yunlong that it was ‘the most meaningful achievement of our lives’ (more detail in Anita Chan’s account). Vice Chairman Xu Deming attended.

After 29th July, the chairpersons of the local and City level unions all received a phone call to increase their organising and to put the gains in the media. Two other stores were unionised the next day. The workers of Wal-Mart Jinhu Shop in Shenzhen were to hold their first meeting on August 4, but decided to move up the meeting date in spite of management opposition. Thirty one workers at Wal-Mart’s Shop in Nanjing set up a union on August 5th despite management trying to ban any union involvement. ACFTU at the higher level continued to assist Wal-Mart’s Jinjiang Shop. Union leaders worked seven days and nights in a row giving advice in Shandong Province. Legal advisors helped dispel the misgivings of those who feared to join the union. The union would defend their rights. There are more stories of this process.

When Wal-Mart found out with the public announcement of the union committees, they first responded adversely. They used various tactics to intimidate workers not to join. They alleged in the business press their workers had not joined voluntarily. The task was to nourish and protect the new unionists. After an argument, local management started to say that if 25 decided to join, then they would recognise the law. Many workers said they had a long aspiration to join, but were worried about being punished or dismissed and to raise their demands. Union local committees emerged in stores. Unionising Wal-Mart was a national and international story.

On the 5th of August, Vice President Xu Deming personally had a meeting in Beijing to ensure all City and regional stores were in the forward drives. After that, five stores got union committees. The ACFTU wanted management to compromise and accept all stores to be organised. Then on August 11th, Wal-Mart China head came to the ACFTU headquarters. At this official meeting, Wal-Mart had the purpose to have management play a greater role. One point they put up was local management could be the Chair of the union committee. This was rejected. Wal-Mart then said that it would be better if they organised the union committee elections, rather than the union. The ACFTU said they would survey the union members, who all said the union should play the bigger role. Union policy is candidates should come from all the workers and not be put up by management. Back in the stores, this was debated. By this time, workers were insisting that they had to elect the union committee. They did not want ‘an employers union’. Wal-Mart had to back off selecting the candidates, but some middle management levels are apparently eligible. The ACFTU says the elected committees are now fair.

On August 16th in Shenzhen, ACFTU officials led by Vice Chairman Xu Deming, after much negotiation with Wal-Mart, made a five-point agreement on the procedures for setting up trade union committees operational. Workers are to seek guidance from the union, membership is voluntary and open to all, and democratic elections must be carried out for the Chair of trade union committees in each store. A compromise is that the preparatory committees have management, district union officials and workers, but management is to be only 20% of the committee.

This was the report. Any questions?

70% target in 2007

What happened after this? By October 2006, the ACFTU was in 60 chain stores in 30 cities and recruited 6,000 members. Wal-mart has lost. The ACFTU admit in most regions Wal-Mart management is now cooperative. Shanghai store has 75% in the union. Over half of Wal-Mart workers were in the union by December 2006. The trade union committees in some stores have increased wages, for example, in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian Province, the union committee persuaded management to raise part-time workers’ wages to 6 yuan ($A1) per hour, above the minimum, 5.5 yuan. Stores agreed to abolish the probation period for part-time workers. The union in Shenyang, capital of Liaoning Province, negotiated the right for one day off a week. Collective agreements are being signed. Wal-Mart now says, ‘we are abiding by the law allowing workers to join. Chinese unions are different from unions in the west. The ACFTU has made it clear that its goal is to work with the employers, not promote confrontation.’ Critics say the arrangement is still top-down. The ACFTU insists it sticks to the principle of relying on workers to form unions and that it is a departure from past organising, as in their optimistic editorial ACFTU website 16/8/2006.

Ms Guo Chen said this organising experience is being driven into all foreign enterprises not unionised. The target is 70% unionised by the end of 2007 (China Daily 5/1/2007). I saw news reports on their wins. It sounds like ‘normal’ organising. ACFTU Congress resolution prioritised the strategy to unionise the foreign sector, so targeted the biggest company and others would follow. Interesting times indeed.

Wal-Mart is big and anti-union

But why is this significant? How should Australian labour activists engage? First, as Wal-Mart is not yet in Australia, Here are some basics (for more read Charles Fishman The Wal-Mart Effect 2006). Wal-Mart is the biggest company in the world, has 1.3 million employees, is the biggest employer in the US, sells annually more than the GNP of most countries and in China has opened in 2007 70 super centres. 80% of their 6,000 supplier factories are in China, meaning many American manufacturers have closed. Chinese suppliers are screwed down on price, so they exploit their Chinese workers.

Worldwide Wal-Mart trumpets its low prices. Each year 7.2 billion people shop there. One part of their strategy is anti-unionism. ‘No union at all’ is its practice and proved it by closing a Canadian store rather than negotiate a collective union agreement. It fights legal battles on underpayments. The management handbook: ‘Staying union free is a full time commitment. The commitment to stay union free must exist at all levels of the management – from the Chairperson of the Board down to the front line manager…The time involved is 365 days per year.’ Wal-Mart’s deeply paternalistic and military style of HRM is successful. Its low price strategy of pressing its suppliers relies on union-busting, ‘crushing labour’. China Newsweek 22/3/2004 reported ‘The Dark Side of Wal-Mart’s Low Prices: Suppliers Seriously Violate Labour Law.’ The NGO reports on Wal-Mart in China detail lower wages, longer hours and the poorest of conditions, huge profits made in large sweatshops. Wal-Mart has since said it does audits of these suppliers complying with labour law. But these audits are known as not effectively independent from Wal-Mart management, nor from local government officials. The ACFTU pushes for greater compliance in 2007 against companies from the labor administrations.

ACFTU servicing

Second, the ACFTU is not the same as Western unions. It is indeed a great servicing organisation. I stayed in Beijing at ‘The People’s Palace’ one of its 4 star hotels, next to its multi-storied headquarters. It has 111 million members, 70% membership. This has been declining as state owned enterprises shut or are privatised and with anti-unionism in the large private sector. ACFTU past practice was principally services, such as being involved in health insurance and social security benefits in state-owned enterprises, senior citizen homes, assisting workers to housing, canteens, medical centres, kindergartens and public baths. 80% of union members in a poll in private companies on what it did well put cultural events, cinema tickets at the top and only 8% that the union fights for workers’ wages and conditions. Is this servicing being turned around to organising?

The ACFTU says it does fight for workers. I received their priorities in ‘The Blue Paper on the Role of Chinese Trade Unions in Safeguarding the Legitimate Rights and Interests of Workers (2005)’.

The ACFTU supports the government, which has strengths, such as consultation in the 2006-7 Employment Contracts Law. The ACFTU’s responsibility is economic development in line with Party policy. ACFTU officials are employed as civil servants. In all the enterprises, the union supports production and efficiency. Indeed, in many enterprises the union head is also at the top of management. Union finance is guaranteed, as the enterprise is required by the Trade union law to submit 2% of monthly pay roll. Union participatory rights are in state owned enterprises, and increasingly the private sector. The 2001 Labour code changes saw consultative rights for ‘employee councils and assemblies’ and the union on personnel issues in private and overseas companies. Although there are rights for the union to conclude collective agreements, these collective agreements are not extensive, only 22% in the private sector. Here is another challenge. The ACFTU is not yet in a collective bargaining role to improve wages and conditions as in the West. But it has to respond to the increasing demands of its members.

The migrant worker problem

I asked about the exploitation of the migrant workers leaving the land to work in the cities. The ACFTU has a campaign on this issue ‘migrant workers to turn to unions when they find themselves in difficulty.’ They will enforce the new Employment Contracts Law to be passed by the NPC in May. This will assist migrant workers with minimum employment contracts. They are starting up 866 new legal aid centres to the existing 2,900. The ACFTU proposes new arbitration processes to assist migrant workers. A major issue is that millions of these migrant rural workers flooding into the cities are not registered for benefits in the cities. The ACFTU wants this long-standing disadvantage against rural workers removed, so all have the health and social insurance entitlements as city citizens. Already the union is linking rural workers from the province they leave to the union in the coastal cities and aims for 10 million new members by the end of 2007. Organising migrant workers into the union is as important a change as Wal-Mart.

I asked about the appalling safety record, with thousands of deaths reported and major OHS problems for workers. In Harbin, a huge up-stream chemical plant with cancerous liquids spilled into the river system, with health problems for years. In the Blue Paper, there was a campaign on these questions. The Ministry was to improve compliance.

Collective bargaining?

I said their campaign for more union rights in collective bargaining was most interesting. When the Employment Contracts Law goes through this year, there will be more union collective consultation rights. Also, the ACFTU is pushing for a separate Chapter on collective bargaining in the Labour code next year as a priority. Tripartite regulations will be first drawn up governing collective bargaining. This struck me as a significant development – but tripartism the Chinese way. The ACFTU is not in favour of the right to strike based on International Labour Organisation (ILO) minimums, the lawful strike to protect workers engaged in bargaining over their economic and social interests. They see their task as more consultation, negotiation and prevention of disputes.

Wildcat strikes and social workplace disturbances, public protests e.g. against unpaid wages are on the increase and not organised by the union, but where the union has to settle the dispute with a return to work. ‘Labour disputes threaten stability’ headlined the China Daily January 30th 2007, the morning I met the ACFTU. The ACFTU uses the reality of escalating unofficial strikes over grievances as one reason these new Employment Contracts law have to be passed by the NPC; otherwise China’s reputable stability is threatened.

The debate for new conflict resolution institutions, on reforms to mediation, arbitration and judicial determination is occurring. I attended a conference on Labour Resolution Disputes at the Labour Institute Renmin University Beijing where the Industrial Relations community and the ACFTU was pushing for a better legal framework for labor relations. In the debate about a future model, there was academic support for a right to strike and legally independent unions. There is neither a lawful right to strike nor are strikes illegal. There is both tolerance of strikes and repression, where strike leaders are arrested not for organising the strike but on a trumped up criminal offence or disturbing the peace. But improvement in the practice of successful collective bargaining comes first. Liu Cheng Shanghai University told me:

‘Progress is step by step. Change is over many years. Same with the unions. They have to change in practice. Union work has to change in practice and then the laws will develop. On collective bargaining, there are more collective agreements, but too often only copies of minimums and not improvements. This is the next step. Workers have to learn in practice better collective agreement making. There is the issue of better rules for the method of election of candidates in the enterprise, so reform of the process is fairer. We are working on these issues so as to improve for both parties more harmonious labor relations with Chinese characteristics.’

Party push

The ACFTU’s political role is as the transmission belt for the Communist Party decisions to the workers. President Hu Jintao on March 14th 2006 issued instructions to ‘do a better job of building Party organizations and trade unions in foreign invested enterprises’. On March 16th all ACFTU staff studied this issue. Hence the Wal-mart strategy. The Party was now putting people into Wal-Mart. The government’s position is clear ‘Call to protect workers in foreign enterprises’, China Herald 1/01/07: ‘The new ideological drive in China got new momentum as the National Committee of the National People’s Political Consultative Conference called for more protection of workers at foreign-invested enterprises. The report said low wages, unreasonable workloads and a lack of safety measures were among the major causes of an increase in collective labor disputes in the booming southern Guangdong and Fujian provinces.’

The ACFTU Blue Paper also covers ‘harmonious labor-management’ relationships; equal consultation on workplace issues; protect workers rights to join and form trade unions; improve the labor contracts; protect workers’ right to pay; step up measures to mediate in disputes; promote gender equality and protect women workers’ special rights and interests; step up inspections of law enforcement; and calls for wages increases.

Optimism?

Considerable criticism has come over the years from the labour movement outside of China and pessimism about the ACFTU’s ability to change. So is Wal-Mart and the goal of 70% unionisation of overseas corporations the new marker of change? We will see. I am optimistic and support those like Anita Chan revising earlier views. She has a cautiously optimistic analysis that ACFTU is changing, in ‘Organizing Wal-Mart: The Chinese Trade Union at a Crossroads’, 8/9/2006. JapanFocus.org and ‘Organizing Wal-Mart in China: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back’, New Labor Forum, 2007. Rolf Geffken in his book ‘Labour and trade unions in China’ up to 2004 believes that the ACFTU will not reform. But in his 21/9/2006 lecture on ‘Chinese unions and the limits of Wal-Mart’s anti-unionism’ he is more optimistic.

I wanted to ask about the western unions demand for ‘free trade unions,’ and explain I had spoken in 1989 against the Tiananmen battle, with support for free and independent unions in China. Han Dongfang, from the China Labor Bulletin (CLB), and the Hong Kong-based labor NGO, is the labor leader who during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest set up the ‘Beijing Workers Autonomous Federation’. He goes to the ILO, has international support and comments widely. Surely, the fear of a ‘Solidarity Union’ by the government is unfounded. He is sceptical the ACFTU is reformable. I am in the optimistic camp. I add that workers I spoke to said the ACFTU was ‘useless.’

My time was up. The ACFTU officials had meetings. China’s Spring Festival was near. I thanked them for their time. The ‘independent unions’ issue is debated, but not one for the ACFTU. They are the union. This is the Trade union law. They oppose any independent union opposition. Unfortunately, they oppose NGOs doing valuable work amongst poor migrant workers and unions outside of China have to work out how to support these NGOs.

I was to ask about the international union movement. How should it engage? The ACFTU is close to the World Federation of Trade Unions WFTU, at the Beijing Conference, 4/12/2006, Economic Globalization and Trade Unions and not the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC. I was to ask about the Australia-China Free Trade Agreement. I wanted to ask about Chinese millionaires; the immense inequality of wealth; the government’s anti-corruption drive; the environmental crisis, but there was no time.

So what can be concluded, albeit tentatively? The ACFTU is not a monolith. As one expects, there are heated policy debates, power plays and different views amongst the factions and the many varied regional and local experiences. The ACFTU is objectively forced to respond to workplace issues better than in the past, in order to maintain legitimacy. In their publications, the campaigns are significant. It is hard to generalise, but there is change. Australian unions have space to positively engage the ACFTU at the top, and with its industry sectors, and at the regional and local union level on a long-term union sustainable strategy. But you cannot tell the Chinese unions what to do. It is their Chinese labour movement. Report 22/2/2007.

Chris White is a labour law researcher living in Canberra.
He was Secretary of the UTLC of SA. whitecd@velocitynet.com.au

First published
White, C. (2007). ‘Organising China’s Wal-Mart’ Evatt Foundation on-line http://evatt.labor.net.au/publications/papers/194.html

Current update on unionising Wal-Mart The latest developments at Wal-Mart China withe the resignation of worker chairperson Gao Haitao from the Nanchang Bayi store. CLNT translation of article in Nanchang newspaper Southern Weekend at

http://talkingunion.wordpress.com/2008/09/27/is-union-reform-possible-in-china/

Reported
White, C. (2007). ‘Unionising Wal-Mart: The Chinese experience’ Guardian 14/3/2007 http://www.cpa.org.au/garchve07/1311walmart.html

White, C. (2007). ‘China and Wal-Mart’, International Union Rights ICTUR

White, C. (2007). ‘China’s New Labour Law The challenge of regulating employment contracts. China moves beyond WorkChoices,’ Evatt Foundation on-line,
http:// evatt.labor.net.au/publications/papers/193.html



Guo Chen gave me ’Wal-Mart Yields to Union Demands’ in the ACFTU Chinese Trade Unions journal October 2006 by Guo Wencai, Wang Ying, Guo Chen. I met also with Yao Li, of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions International Department in Beijing 30/1/2007. See ACFTU website at www.acftu.com.cn e.g. ‘Trade Unions get into Wal-Mart.’ I received their 2006 pamphlets on current issues. The ACFTU priorities in 2005 are in the ‘Blue Paper on the Role of Chinese Trade Unions in Safeguarding the Legitimate Rights and Interests of Workers.’ Also, Papers in the ACFTU Beijing Conference December 4-5 2006 on International Forum Economic Globalisation and Trade Unions.

Australian unions use the organising perspective. Crosby M (2005) Power at Work Rebuilding the Australian Union Movement (Federation Press). See ACTU policies www.actu.org.au

Anita Chan’s account with other sources backs the ACFTU. December 2006 ‘Organizing Wal-Mart in China: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back’, New Labor Forum, forthcoming. See earlier ‘Organizing Wal-Mart: The Chinese Trade Union at a Crossroads’, 8/9/2006. www.japanfocus.org ANU website http://rspas.anu.edu.au/ccc/pubs/chan_a.phpan. Anita Chan has been a fierce critic in her book, (2001), ‘China’s Workers under Assault – the exploitation of labor in a globalised economy’. Also, see Rolf Geffken ‘Chinese unions and the limits of Wal-Mart’s anti-unionism’ in 21/9/2006 lecture. Kan Wang ‘Chinese Labor under a Changing Political Economy’ (2006 paper) gives a differing NGO perspective. Also, ‘Enter the fire-breathing dragon’ Han Dongfang, CLB director South China Morning Post 30/9/2006.

‘ACFTU Union established at Foxconn on the very last day of 2006. The Shenzhen municipal ACFTU sent a group of officials to hold a “Trade Union Law” promotion activity in Longhua town in Shenzhen. It was an unusual activity because the ACFTU, like many other government departments, do not usually operate on Sundays. For a few hours they distributed leaflets and application forms to join a union. By noon, they had collected 118 membership application forms from workers at Foxconn’s Longhua facility and immediately announced that the first Foxconn trade union branch was therefore established.’ Nanfang Daily, Xinhua, Mingpao, 2/1/2007 posted IHLO website www.ihlo.org The IHLO is the Hong Kong Liaison Office of the international trade union movement. Also, People’s Daily 28/10/2006: ‘Nearly 70% foreign-funded companies in Shanghai set up trade unions. 1,852 trade unions have been founded in foreign-funded companies in Shanghai this year alone. Mushrooming trade unions in the east China metropolis could be ascribed to government efforts since April, said an official with the Shanghai Federation of Trade Unions. The official said 358 companies that appear in the Fortune magazine top 500 have opened branches or offices in Shanghai, and 99 of them have set up trade unions. Wal-Mart, which once refused to establish a trade union in its Chinese branches, founded its first trade union in Shanghai on Aug. 25. Taking their lead from Wal-Mart, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s, Roche, Pepsi and French bank BNP have all set up trade unions recently.’ People’s Daily On-line 15/10/2006 ‘Xu Deming condemns multi-nationals anti-unionism.’ ‘Anhui gets auto electronics trade union’ Chinadaily.com 16/10/2006. UNI, an international union, met ACFTU praising their Wal-Mart unionising 27/10/2006 ‘Bottom-up Unions for China?’ ‘Bargaining aim for China involvement’ 28/10/2006 www.union-network.org/ See Global Labor Strategies, www.laborstrategies.com 4/10/2006 ‘China’s Emerging Labor Movement.’ Apo Leong ‘New class war brewing in China’ 8/12/2006.

In Rolf Geffken ‘Chinese unions and the limits of Wal-Mart’s anti-unionism.’ September 21st 2006 lecture. Institute for Comparison of Labour and Industrial Relations. Cf www.Geffken-Law.dj

Also in China Labor Watch ‘When Wal-Mart Workers Unionize, Plan for the Counter Attack’, 23/8/2006 and National Labor Committee 2005 reports clw@chinalaborwatch.org; Global Labor Strategies followed the 2006 story, http://laborstrategies.blogs.com/global_labor_strategies/about_us/index.html; See the US Wal-Mart Watch, a community coalition exposing business practices at www.walmartwatch.com

See two reports. 15/12/2005 China Labor Watch and the National Labor Committee on Wal-Mart factories in Southern China. Also, ‘China and the Global Sweatshop Lobby’ 18/12/2006 International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers Associations IUF http://www.iuf.org/www/en/ See Charles Fisherman (2006) The Wal-Mart Effect (Allen Lane).

See my Report February 2007 ‘China’s new Employment Contracts Law.’ The draft second reading PRC Employment Contracts Law 20/12/2006 is available from me. See Global Labor Strategies; ‘Behind the Great Wall of China. U.S. Corporations Opposing New Rights for Chinese Workers, Opposition may harm workers in the US and other countries.’ http//laborstrategies.org/ For their 20/2/2007 reply to the corporate lobby, see JapanFocus.org Contact brendan@laborstrategies.org. I agree with the following: ‘GMS explores ways workers around the world can devise a new and coordinated China policy based on standards of fair globalization. Unions and worker movements all over the globe are confronting the challenges posed by the emergence of China as a global economic powerhouse. There’s good reason: no other industrializing country has ever attracted jobs at both the high and low ends of the production chain. From basic level assembly work to the upper tiers of industry and services, China is setting the global norm for working standards around the world. …the real driving forces in this dynamic are the global corporations that move to China to lower labor costs and use the threat of this mobility as a lever to drive down wages and working conditions for workers in other countries, and even within China itself. Today it doesn’t matter where you live; footloose global corporations can move or threaten to move your job. The “privileged” position of workers in the global North is being rapidly undermined while the aspirations of workers in the developing world are being dashed, as China becomes the wage setting country in many industries. A central part of any new labor policy on China must be creating links and a dialogues between Chinese and non-Chinese workers and activists.’ Also, Earl Brown JapanFocus ‘Chinese Labor Law Reform: Guaranteeing Worker Rights in the Age of Globalism’ 24/11/2006; Earl Brown ‘A Labor Lawyer’s Quick Take on Chinese Labor Law Reform.’

Kan Wang ‘Chinese Labor under a Changing Political Economy’ (2006) gives a NGO view. Available from me.

10 ‘Enter the fire-breathing dragon’ Han Dongfang, CLB director, South China Morning Post 30/9/2006. See reply, Anita Chan (2006) ‘Organizing Wal-Mart: The Chinese Trade Union at a Crossroads’, 8/9/2006. www.japanfocus.org

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