Strikes in China
Strike is defined as work stoppage as a result of collective employees’ absconding of duty. It is a popular response of workers around the world who want to communicate their discontent and grievance. According to Bratton, McCahery, Picciotti, and Scott (2012), strikes gained popularity during the Industrial Revolution when mass labor gained significance, especially in mines and factories. Factories and mine owners had more power compared to the workers, and most countries have started labeling strikes as being illegal since then. However, strikes were made legal in most Western countries in the end of 19th and the beginning of 20th centuries. This gave employees the right to organize and protest against certain labor policies. Various types of strikes have been protected under the Labor Relations Act (China Labour Bulletin, 2015). Such strikes include economic strikes that result from disagreements over wages, unfair work practices strikes, recognition strikes that aim to coerce employers to pay attention to unions, jurisdictional strikes that aim to make employers to confirm employees’ rights over certain job assignments, and others. On the other hand, many other strikes are not protected by law and are perceived to cause chaos and turmoil. Occasionally, strikes tend to destabilize the ruling of a certain political party or leader; hence, they may be a part of a wider social movement of civil resistance. Therefore, governments in countries around the world have devised different ways how to handle strikes. This paper represents an in-depth analysis of how strikes are handled in China in comparison with the United States.
Throughout history, strikes in China have been perceived as being illegal. They are considered as counter-revolutionary actions that could tamper with overall economic development. Since the Chinese government claims to represent the working class, it has always discouraged this activity by claiming that strikes are not necessary. Although China signed the global agreement on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights in 1976, which ultimately assured unions of the right to strike, Chinese government took the front stage and declared that they had no intention in advocating for such liberties (Chan & Nadvi, 2015). However, in 2008, the Shenzhen municipal authority drafted labor regulations. If they had been put in place, they would have secured freedom for Chinese workers to engage in strikes. Opponents of the labor rights termed these drafts to be mere propaganda that the government could employ in regulating workers as well as assign them various social activities. Such interpretation of labor regulations contradicts the core values of SLU since the latter advocate for effective leadership in a challenging world. Denying workers to engage in strikes is denying moral rights, dignity, values, and talents of all individuals (SLU, 2016).
By contrast, the United States has recognized workers’ right to strike. As a result, employers are even expected to go beyond the minimum statutory requirements to enhance overall workers’ wellbeing. According to Bratton et al. (2012), all employment entities in the U.S. are obliged to treat employees equally without any form of oppression or discrimination. Failure to do this may spur employees to boycott work and voice their protest through strikes. Although some jurisdictions in the country prohibit strikes by public employees particularly, others restrict strikes only by certain workers’ categories, especially those perceived to play a critical role in the society. For instance, although certain jurisdictions have recognized workers’ right to strike, they restrict this practice among police officers, medical officers, teachers, and firefighters (China Labour Bulletin, 2015). Nevertheless, this attitude to strikes complies with the SLU values of community because they recognize employees’ right to strike, which supports their dignity. Similarly, restricting strikes among those categories that are perceived to be critical to the society further conforms to the SLU core values as they require members of the society to diligently serve their community. This means that restricting such categories of workers from engaging in strikes ensures that they remain in duty at all times, serving their community and protecting the wellbeing of human beings who are God’s creations (SLU, 2016).
A comparative graph showing changing trends in the number of strikes in China and United States.
Despite the significant restrictions that have prevailed for a long time, strikes in China have become prevalent. This can be explained by the economic downturn that has recently struck the world’s second largest economy. Chan and Nadvi (2015) state that China continues modernizing its economy, so the country has recently witnessed a drastic increase in the number of strikes as workers agitate for higher wages, better labor standards, and the right to participate in decision making process. With hundreds of strikes being currently witnessed every year, China has recognized the existence of its sole labor union known as the All-China Federation of Trade Unions which is supposedly bestowed with the responsibility of fighting for the workers’ rights. However, the union is an extension of the Communist Party, so it is submissive to the party’s management (China Labour Bulletin, 2015). This means that activities within the union are regulated solely by the party, which eventually determines the way how workers’ needs and demands are addressed. Given that the union is solely funded by private and public companies in the country, their managers usually regulate the union’s activities including workers’ strikes. Consequently, Chinese workers’ complaints and demands are usually reviewed by a monopolistic state-controlled union structure which is mainly concerned about conciliating rather than actually solving the issues and addressing employees’ needs. Thus, the union makes every effort to mollify workers and persuade them to terminate demonstrative activities such as strikes. Although the union can do everything within its power to increase employees’ productivity, it handles strikes by ensuring that employees are not fed up with it and do not ultimately resolve to forming their own unions (Bratton et al., 2012). This aspect does not comply with the SLU core values which require members of the wider community to be given an opportunity to express their opinions while serving the community. On the contrary, in China, members of the wider worker community are denied the opportunity to express their views. Instead, the Chinese authorities seek to calm down the workers and ensure that they do not resolve to striking again (SLU, 2016).
In comparison, workers’ unions in the United States are independent and free from any interference, which is fundamental in establishing a democratic society. Workers’ unions are founded on sovereignty of association, which allows employees to take the most autonomous approach in modifying their own associations. This means that unions can shape their own constitutions as well as bylaws in the most appropriate manner to ensure that all the workers’ needs and grievances are satisfactorily addressed (China Labour Bulletin, 2015). Similarly, workers have freedom to vote for the leaders they want, attend meetings, freely voice their opinions, and organize strikes in case they realize that they are being deprived of certain rights. Thus, unions are primarily concerned about satisfying workers’ needs rather than meeting economic needs in the first place (Chan & Nadvi, 2015). United States’ perspective in handling strikes complies with the SLU core values. The country has created an opportunity for members of the wider worker community to freely participate in unions where they can communicate their opinions (Bratton et al., 2012). In addition, all workers, whether individually or collectively, are motivated to work hard and can enjoy sense of unity and belonging, which makes them socially responsible members of the community. Moreover, workers are allowed to take part in meetings where they can negotiate the most favorable terms that can ultimately improve their overall wellbeing (SLU, 2016). If their demands are not satisfied, they can engage in strikes as a way of coercing the government to change policies.
A comparative graph showing workers’ participation in labor unions in China and United States
To sum up, strikes are popular activities that workers around the world engage in when they realize that there is a need to communicate their grievances. While strikes are usually organized in an effort to coerce the government and employment agencies to change policies, different countries employ varying strategies to address them and ensure that they do not affect the stability within the labor sector. Strikes in China have always been termed as illegal: unnecessary counter-revolutionary actions are thought to affect overall economic development. Although China has in some way recognized the need to legalize labour unions, the country’s sole labour union is operating under the control of the Communist Party. This has denied employees the freedom to voice their values and opinions since the union is concerned only about appeasing them rather than addressing their needs. On the other hand, the United States has always recognized strikes as legal actions that ensure the formation of a democratic society. That is why independent formation of autonomous labor unions is allowed in the country. This ensures that members voice their opinions and can take part in strikes aimed to coerce authorities to change policies and satisfy employees’ needs.
Bratton, W., McCahery, J., Picciotti, S., & Scott, C. (Eds). (2012). International regulatory competition and coordination: Perspectives on economic regulation in Europe and the United States. London: Clarendon Press.
Chan, C., & Nadvi, K. (2015). Changing labour regulations and labour standards in China: Retrospect and challenges. International Labour Review, 153(4), 513-534.
China Labour Bulletin. (2015). Strikes and protests by China’s workers soar to record heights in 2015.CLB. Retrieved from http://www.clb.org.hk/en/content/strikes-and-protests-china%E2%80%99s-workers-soar-record-heights-2015
SLU. (2016). The first Florida Catholic university: Mission and Values. SLU. Retrieved from http://www.saintleo.edu/about/florida-catholic-university.aspx