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June 09, 2010

Labor Strikes in Foshan, China and Chennai, India

Remarkable news in the NYT (via Nullspace): Power Grows for Striking Chinese:
Honda Motors said Tuesday that workers at a parts plant had walked off the job just days after the company settled a separate strike by agreeing to substantial pay raises for 1,900 workers at its transmission factory.

The new walkout, at an exhaust-system factory in the city of Foshan, will force Honda to halt work Wednesday at one of its four auto assembly plants in China, the company said.

The assembly plants had just reopened after closing for almost two weeks because of the earlier strike at the transmission factory, which is also in Foshan.

And in Bloomberg/Business Week we see, "Honda Plants in China to Stay Shut Tomorrow as Strikes Spread":
The car-assembly plants in Guangzhou, Guangdong province will be closed for a second day after employees at a parts supplier stopped work demanding higher pay, said a Honda spokeswoman. Another supplier in Guangdong halted production today because of a strike, said Gao Xia, a Honda spokeswoman in Beijing.
While the Chinese Communists (and remember, that is who's in charge) will not permit any challenge to their own authority, it's nice to see that they're willing to permit labor strikes which challenge companies from outside the Great Firewall.

In the Wall Street Journal we read that Hyundai Motor Co's factory in Chennai, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, agreed to consider reinstating 35 of the 67 employees it fired last December in order to settle a strike that closed the factory for three days.

Also in Chennai, employees at Nokia's plant are striking after the company suspended an employee for refusing to work a different shift on short notice. After he was suspended, more workers joined to protest against the suspension and they were also suspended, he told the newspaper. The union claimed that about 2,000 staff were on strike, and production of nearly 100,000 mobile handsets was disrupted following the strike

What is going on here?
What is going on there, that isn't happening here?

A strike is terrible - it can take a family a long time to recoup wages lost during a strike - and so it's hard to see reports of any strike and say, "that's a good thing". But the strike, although terrible, gives the workers an essential tool and permits them to say "we will shut down rather than accept this". I would sooner live and work in a place where workers can strike rather than a place where workers cannot strike.

This is good news - not in a schadenfreude sort of way - but good news in the sense that these people are standing up for themselves and demanding a fair wage and good conditions.

It's good news that they're organizing to the degree that they can force the Capital and Capital's Managers to pay attention to them, and it's good news that they're willing to take risks and bear costs to stand in solidarity. There are things, apparently, that Chinese and Indian factory workers will object to.

This is good news because organized labor and the right to strike are fundamental to the establishment and success of a middle class, and because organized labor in China and India will improve the lot of billions of people. Labor strikes, the capability of withholding your labor, are a fundamental human right.

This is also good news because the "China Price", long the bane of US manufacturing, may begin to reflect more realistic costs. The American worker is the most productive in the world, and I believe we can compete with anybody given a fair market. This may move us closer to that.

We've lost the notion of the labor strike in America. We lost it in 1981, we lost it as Capital moved manufacturing jobs overseas, and we lost it when we deluded ourselves into thinking strikes were something we'd moved beyond. The middle class and the American dream suffer from the loss of the labor strike. Maybe it's time for the pendulum to swing back.

When was the last major American strike that closed a major factory? Capital doesn't have any problem closing a factory when it's beneficial to them. (We note that National Nurses United has scheduled a one-day strike on Thursday June 10 in Minnesota.)

Is it possible that Communist China and India can be doing better on labor/human rights than America?

(hat tip: Nullspace.)


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