Labor activism in China inspires workers throughout Asia

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.