Work for the Union Label?

The New York Times reports on a proposed new law that would dramatically increase the power of China’s labor unions – at least on paper:

China is planning to adopt a new law that seeks to crack down on sweatshops and protect workers’ rights by giving labor unions real power for the first time since it introduced market forces in the 1980’s.

The move, which underscores the government’s growing concern about the widening income gap and threats of social unrest, is setting off a battle with American and other foreign corporations that have lobbied against it by hinting that they may build fewer factories here…

…It would apply to all companies in China, but its emphasis is on foreign-owned companies and the suppliers to those companies…

…But it is not clear how effectively such a new labor law would be carried out through this vast land because local officials have tended to ignore directives from the central government or seek ways around them.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. China’s only legal union is controlled by the state – but still, giving an organization of workers the ability to negotiate contracts and working conditions brings with it the possibility of empowerment outside of strict CCP control. The article also notes:

In a surprisingly democratic move, China asked for public comment on the draft law last spring and received more than 190,000 responses, mostly from labor activists. The American Chamber of Commerce sent in a lengthy response with objections to the proposals. The European Chamber of Commerce also responded.

The law would impose heavy fines on companies that do not comply. And the state-controlled union – the only legal union in China – would gain greater power through new collective-bargaining rights or pursuing worker grievances and establishing work rules. One provision in the proposed law reads, “Labor unions or employee representatives have the right, following bargaining conducted on an equal basis, to execute with employers collective contracts on such matters as labor compensation, working hours, rest, leave, work safety and hygiene, insurance, benefits, etc.”

The Discussion: 8 Comments

I don’t support workers unions. It is the old communistic thing.

October 15, 2006 @ 4:16 am | Comment

I don’t support labour abuses. It is the old thing.

October 15, 2006 @ 1:24 pm | Comment

It appears on the surface that the CCP is doing something correct – and for the right reasons too! Pinch me – am I dreaming?

October 15, 2006 @ 1:31 pm | Comment

If it’s communist, then why does every developed capitalist country have them?

I think that most developed economies are developed to the point where unions have lived past their use, but they have played a significant roll in developing corporate culture and legal/human rights in the economies of the west. I’m glad to see China make this step which has been long overdue.

China does a whole bunch of stuff that’s correct, it’s just that correct should be a given, hence usually people don’t comment on it.

China does a whole bunch of crap stuff too….

October 16, 2006 @ 4:28 am | Comment

I didn’t see the article. Can you give a date? Any other writings on this?

dave searles
Vermont, USA

October 16, 2006 @ 7:28 pm | Comment

Dave, there is a link to the article at the top of the post. I just checked it and it still works.

I’m sure this story was covered in other papers, but there has also been coverage from a couple months ago, when the Chinese workers in Wal-mart unionized.

October 17, 2006 @ 1:01 am | Comment

After reading the whole article, I am shocked and angered to see that A-holes from the multinationals and that cess pool of greediness the American Chamber of Commerce are trying to block their efforts with THREATS. OK I’m not shocked, but I’m angered.

I concede that the chances of the government coming up with an effective union solution are slim to none. On this one, I’m willing to give them a chance. Something has to be done folks. I’ve talked with farmers in Hunan who say that it is better to be dirt poor on the farm than ripped off in Guangdong. Working conditions for many are improving, but do not forget that for millions it is not work but abuse. And these pampered jackasses are coming in telling China to not try and look out for the little guy. Unbelievable.

October 18, 2006 @ 1:00 pm | Comment

I could go on and on about this subject – having been a union Boilermaker for 25 years this year (Oh my G*d – did I really do that??!!) – but suffice to say that the reasons for the creation of unionism in Amerika ‘way back when still exist today – to protect the average working man who doesn’t have the connections to rise above his station from those that do and have! Why is it so innate in human nature to go from unwilling victim to willing bully given half a chance? A cycle that I will not soon miss once I pass from this mortal coil….

October 21, 2006 @ 2:40 pm | Comment

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