A sleeping giant is stirring in China—the working class. High-profile strikes have spread through China’s Honda car plants over the past few weeks.
These strikes have shown a new confidence and militancy among workers.
Unlike in previous disputes, the strikers don’t wear masks to avoid retribution. And they are challenging the official state-run “unions” by demanding the right to independent organisation.
Workers at Honda Lock in Guangdong province marched out of their factory on Friday of last week demanding a 70 percent pay increase and the right to elect their own representatives.
They are mostly in their early 20s and over half are women.
The 1,700 workers elected their own factory committee, with one member from each workshop, to negotiate with management.
The only “trade union” the Chinese state allows, the All China Federation of Trade Unions, is a fake union that defends the interests of the state and the employers.
“The official trade union is worse than useless—they are traitors,” a woman striker at Honda Lock told the New York Times.
The Honda Lock strikers were inspired by the success of workers in Honda Automotive Components, a transmissions plant, who struck and won a 24 percent wage increase two weeks ago.
This strike shut down all of Honda’s Chinese operations for eight days.
Again, workers formed an elected factory committee to represent them.
The 16 members of the committee issued an open letter that said, “We must not let the representatives of capital divide us. This factory’s profits are the fruits of our bitter toil.
“This struggle is not just about the interests of our 1,800 workers.
“We also care about the rights and interests of all Chinese workers.”
Honda isn’t the only company facing rising unrest.
Workers struck at Merry Electronics in Shenzhen’s Bao’an district on 6 June.
Reports describe how hundreds of workers blocked the factory entrance. The crowd grew to over 1,000.
Workers held up banners demanding higher pay and fewer working hours.
They won a 10 percent pay rise from July.
More strikers fought police at a rubber factory in Kunshan, while 2,000 workers struck at a computer parts plant in Pudong.
Another strike took place at a sewing machine plant owned by Brother Industries in Xi’an, central China.
An article in the Financial Times newspaper last week talked of the “rising anger of China’s proletariat”.
It pointed to the way workers are comparing wages and working conditions with other factories and then demanding improvements, and in some cases taking strike action.
A petition by workers at KOK International, a Taiwanese-owned factory near Shanghai, declared, “Power lies in unity and hope lies in defiance.”
The recent suicides of Chinese workers in the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen exposed the brutal conditions that many are expected to endure.
But fewer workers are willing to accept them—and they are boosting others’ confidence to fight.