In China, Unlikely Labor Leader Just Wanted a Middle-Class Life

From the New York Times:

Tan Guocheng is hardly a self-styled labor leader. Age 23 and introverted, he grew up among rice paddies and orange groves far from China’s big factory towns.

But last month, an hour into his shift at a Honda factory in the southern city of Foshan, Mr. Tan pressed an emergency button that shut down his production line.

“Let’s go out on strike!” he shouted. Within minutes, hundreds of workers were abandoning their posts.

Colleagues described Mr. Tan’s leadership as an uncharacteristic act of courage; Mr. Tan said he simply wanted a pay raise. Regardless, he has helped touch off a wave of strikes at Honda plants and other workplaces in China that are still playing out in surprising and significant ways.

Though Mr. Tan has since been fired by Honda for “sabotage” and moved back to his village, striking workers at another Honda plant less than 100 miles away in Zhongshan marched in the streets on Friday and made a new demand: the right to form an independent labor union.

See also an online debate from the New York Times titled “What Do China’s Workers Want?

Read more about labor strikes and Honda via CDT.

June 13, 2010 7:48 PM
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