“Democracy Must Begin on the Factory Floor”
At The World Post, China Labour Bulletin founder Han Dongfang discusses prospects for labor organization in China:
[…] Of course, the party will not permit broad political freedom in China, but it knows the only way it can create the conditions for ordinary people to share in the benefits of the much-hyped “economic miracle” is by allowing grassroots democracy to flourish. And probably the safest place for the party to start implementing grassroots democracy is on the factory floor.
China’s workers have already begun the march towards workplace democracy. You just need to look at the thousands of strikes and protests by factory workers across the country to understand that China’s workers will no longer accept being dictated to by the boss, nor will they accept a trade union that just keeps quiet and does nothing when their livelihoods are destroyed, as was the case during the breakup of the state-owned enterprises. Compared to 35 years ago, China’s workers are willing and increasingly determined to take their future into their own hands.
Today, China’s workers want the same as workers everywhere: decent pay for decent work. They want their children to get a good education and proper healthcare, and to have a decent pension when they retire. But in order to realize even these basic aspirations without having to resort to strikes and protests, China’s workers need two things: firstly, the right to collectively bargain with their employer over pay, benefits and working conditions, and secondly, a democratically-elected and democratically-run trade union to back them up and really defend their interests. [Source]