Jun 28, 2010
After the success of the Honda strike in May, when 1850 workers at a factory in Canton won a $40 increase on their base wages, strikes spread to other parts of China. Chinese workers at Hyundai factories near Beijing, the capital, also won an increase after striking.
On June 11, other Honda workers struck, as did 1500 workers subcontracted to make locks and keys for Honda. These workers increased their monthly salary from 1700 yuan to 2040 yuan (a 20% raise) and won the right to organize their own union.
Workers at another subcontractor of Honda, Foshan Fengfu, also went on strike for a salary increase.
And 2,000 workers in an industrial zone near Shanghai went on strike at a Taiwan-owned factory making valves. It lasted five days, and workers demanded a salary increase from their bosses. The police attacked strikers, leaving 50 wounded. Also in early June, workers in central China at a subcontractor to Adidas went on strike, showing enormous anger at the death of a striker.
We cannot know from a distance if the strikers are deepening their strikes, as well as extending them. But it’s clear the Chinese workers have been paying for 20 years for the so-called Chinese “economic miracle,” and paying also for the enormous profits of the Western multinational corporations that subcontract their “cheap” labor.
A non-profit group, China Labor Watch, has denounced such practices as making workers sleep in dormitories infested with insects; not allowing them days off; working 11 hours a day six days a week; working overtime without any additional pay, all for a salary of $75 to $100 per month. And these are workers making items for Disney, Mattel, Warner Brothers, grocer Carrefour, as well as auto and electronic groups like Taiwan’s Hon Hai that employs 800,000 Chinese workers, making products for iPhone, Apple, Nokia, Sony, Dell and Hewlett-Packard.
The reasons to revolt are many: These workers were forced to leave the countryside, living far from their families.
But as a recent study underlined, these migrant workers are less inclined than the older generation to accept the long hours and bad living conditions.
In any case, we hope that this fight will deepen, and that the hundreds of millions of Chinese workers will make the central government step back, along with the local bosses and the multinationals that stand behind them.