China’s workers have demonstrated remarkable solidarity and organizational ability for several years now in strikes and protests across the country. They have demanded and in many cases obtained higher wages and better working conditions from their employer. Moreover, they have done this on their own and without the help of the trade union, which is usually seen as ineffectual or merely a tool of management.
Today however there is evidence that workers are no longer simply ignoring the union in their struggle but instead are demanding that it shows solidarity with them and does a much better job in protecting their rights and interests in the workplace. Over the past few months, for example, Chinese workers have demanded the ouster of a democratically-elected but under-performing trade union chairman, gone on strike in protest at a wage agreement negotiated by management and union, and demanded union assistance in their quest for equal pay for equal work at a state-owned enterprise in the revolutionary heartland of Yan’an.