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A Cry for Justice: The Voices of Chinese Workers
29 January, 2008
Published on15 January 2008 by the Albert Shanker Institute, A Cry for Justice: The Voices of Chinese Workers, is a new report on Chinese labour issues based almost exclusively on interviews conducted by CLB Director Han Dongfang over the last six years. Please note, the PDF version of the report is 8.MB and may take a few seconds to load. To see a short video of Han Dongfang at the press conference to launch the report please go the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers website and click on Behind the Chinese Miracle on the Media Library tab.
The report focuses on seven cases studies, outlined below.
1. The Oilfield Workers of Daqing.
Between March and June 2002, the Daqing Oilfield workers in China’s northeastern Heilongjiang province waged one of that nation’s most militant and high profile labour protests in decades. During the course of the four-month protest, a provisional independent union was formed and crushed by authorities, and across China, other oilfield workers staged solidarity protests that rippled throughout the oil industry.
2. The Liaoyang Ferroalloy Protest.
On 11 March 2002, just six days after 50,000 oil field workers in Daqing launched their protest — several thousand workers from the Ferroalloy Factory in the northeast industrial city of Liaoyang took to the streets to call attention to the swelling number of impoverished, laid-off workers in their city.
3. The Strike at Heavenly King.
On 14 September 2004, more than 6,000 workers of the Tianwang (literally, “Heavenly King”) Textile Group, Xianyang, Shaanxi province, began a seven week long strike. The workers were protesting the unfair, and unlawful, proposals offered by the new owners as their factory was privatized.
4. Protests by Former Soldiers.
This chapter focuses on four different episodes involving PLA-owned factories and the strategies chosen by soldiers-turned-workers to protect their jobs. In all four cases, the former soldiers showed greater militancy than most other workers. Their ideological training gave their protests an explicit and assertive political edge.
5. Gold Peak Batteries Strike
In the second half of 2003, one worker after another began to fall ill at four Gold Peak (GP) Batteries factories in the city of Huizhou, Guangdong. Owned by Hong Kong investors, GP was Asia’s largest manufacturer of batteries outside Japan. Most of the several thousand workers at the factories were migrants from other regions of China; most were women of child-bearing-age.
6. The Wanbao Coal Mine Strike
In December 2002, 30 miners perished in a fire at the Wanbao Coal Mine in Jilin province. In response, the victims’ angry workers assaulted the mine’s director. The workers had been conducting protests against the mine operators for three months prior to the disaster, and the deaths of their colleagues brought renewed energy to their struggle and focused public attention on the plight of Chinese miners.
7. Rural Teachers Protests
There is a vast gap between the quality of rural and urban education in China. Rural teachers lag in professional qualifications, level of pay, and working conditions. Huge arrears in salaries are common. Teachers in remote rural areas receive as little as 99 yuan (US$12) a month.
The Albert Shanker Institute is a nonprofit organization endowed by the American Federation of Teachers.