Technology Aiding Labor in China (Updated)

In the New York Times, David Barboza and Keith Bradsher write about the role of technology in the Honda Lock factory strike:

It is labor revolt by text message and video upload, underwritten by the Chinese government.

On Wednesday, a look at photographs on the Internet that were taken by workers at Honda Lock in Zhongshan during a strike.

The 1,700 workers who went on strike at the Honda Lock auto parts factory here are mostly poor migrants with middle-school educations.

But they are surprisingly tech-savvy.

Hours into a strike that began last week, they started posting detailed accounts of the walkout online, spreading word not only among themselves but also to restive and striking workers elsewhere in China.

They fired off cellphone text messages urging colleagues to resist pressure from factory bosses. They logged onto a state-controlled Web site — workercn.cn — that is emerging as a digital hub of the Chinese labor movement. And armed with desktop computers, they uploaded video of Honda Lock’s security guards roughing up employees.

Read more about labor strikes and Honda via CDT.

Update: See also from Evan Osnos’ blog, “The Chinese Internet and suicide”:

Today, while the Times takes note of how text messaging and video uploads have shaped labor protests at Honda plants in China this summer, it is worth noting another remarkable example of the power of the Chinese Web. Roland Soong, at EastSouthWestNorth, has traced and translated the story of a would-be suicide that was prevented by concerned Chinese citizens who read a suicide note and intervened to help someone they did not know, even going so far as to trace the I.P. address of the anonymous post to a hotel in the city of Lijiang. They gave info to local authorities who then tracked down the author of the note. Within hours of posting the suicide note, it had ignited on the Web. “By 9:28 P.M., the post has been read by 50,000 persons with 651 comments.”

This combination of empathy and technical sophistication is a notable counterpoint to the ongoing debate among many Chinese citizens about the erosion of social connections and ethics in a brutally competitive economy—the kind of atomizing effect, for instance, that tacitly permits someone to knowingly substitute safe ingredients with unsafe ones, to cite the example that I’ve heard raised more than once.

June 16, 2010 9:05 PM
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Categories: Law, Politics, Sci-Tech