In recent months, workers in China have boldly gone on strike and won concessions from their employers. This wave of labor unrest is inspiring other exploited, low-wage workers throughout Asia – many of whom work for major US corporations, like Gap, Nike and Wal-Mart – to take action as well.
In Cambodia, thousands of workers began a five-day strike yesterday to demand higher wages and better benefits. According to Reuters:
The Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, representing about 40,000 workers, said it expected about 80,000 people to go on strike as they sought a $93 monthly wage — a 50 percent increase from the $61 agreed in July under a four-year pact between the government and several unions.
That was up from a previous monthly wage of $56.
In Bangladesh, thousands of textile workers demanding an increase in wages to 5,000 taka, or $72, a month from 3,000 taka clashed with the police last month and at least 500 people were wounded. In Vietnam, thousands went on strike in April at a Taiwanese-owned shoe factory.
The fact that so many workers in the region are asserting themselves at the same time gives them more power. As the Financial Times explains:
Although garment manufacturing is easy to relocate, there are few under-industrialised Asian nations for manufacturers to move to. With upward pressure on wages in all the lowest-cost production centres, many manufacturers see little option but to accede to at least some union demands.