Chinese Unions

 Chinese workers stage these strikes so often because they have few other ways to negotiate with their employers. Although collective bargaining has been legal since the 1990s, all unions are under the country’s state-controlled All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU)—the world’s largest trade union group in terms of members,239 million (link in Chinese). Usually stacked with employees hand-picked by management, these ACFTU unions’ main remit is to keep business going as usual, negotiating with factory owners and plant managers and often ignoring workers. “The union in China is fundamentally different from unions in the West… The union has made it clear that its goal is to work with employers, not promote confrontation,” a Walmart official explained after Walmart, famously opposed to working with unions, agreed to allow organized labor groups at its Chinese operations in 2006. In 2010, a local union in Nanhai, in the southern Guangdong province, sent vans of “strikebreakers” who scuffled with employees on a 17-day strike at a Honda supplier. That approach is slowly changing, at least in some places. As wildcat strikes have increased in number, they’ve also become more sophisticated and contagious. They can spread quickly from factory to regional industry, thanks to chatrooms, blogging, and text messages. This spring, protests caught on across a string of factories making Nike, Puma and other sports shoes in Dongguan, a manufacturing hub in Guangdong. Involving some 40,000 workers and lasting for weeks, this was China’s largest strike since the country’s economic reforms and opening in the late 1970s and 1980s. Public sympathy and media attention have also made the authorities less quick to haul away workers.

Source Wildcat strikes by workers (those not organized by a union) have surged in the last five years, helping workers get the attention of manufacturing hubs and traditionally employer-focused unions.
(c)2014 - The Fusion Works