Unionization drive is repressed in Shenzhen, China

Sept. 2018 china workers

By JOHN LESLIE

Facing poor working conditions and mistreatment that made workers feel “like slaves,” workers at Jasic Technologies are attempting to form a union in Shenzhen, China. On May 10, a delegation of workers delivered a petition to the company and the officially recognized Workers Union.

After first expressing support for the workers’ effort to organize, the Pingshan District Federation of Trade Unions turned against the worker organizers, declaring their unionization drive to be illegal. As many as 89 workers had signed petitions signaling their intent to unionize. According to the website Rights Network, the workers face fines, lost wages, benefit cuts, and blacklisting at the hands of management. At least one worker, Yu Yuncong, was beaten by a supervisor.

According to the China Labour Bulletin: “In a now deleted open letter on social media, worker organiser Mi Jiuping thanked their supporters and emphasised that ‘the right to unionise is protected by Chinese law and workers are only exercising their legally entitled right.’”

In June, management rigged the election of a company union run by hand-picked cronies. Since the law can only recognize the existence of one union in any given workplace, the official union turned against the rank-and-file effort. Company goons attacked individual union supporters. Seven workers involved in the independent organizing effort were fired, and more than 30 supporters of the workers—some of them Maoist intellectuals, retired Communist Party members, and student activists—were arrested. Family members of the workers were also detained by police who raided their homes. On July 20, worker organizers Mi Jiuping and Liu Penghua were beaten by police after security guards threw them out of the factory.

According to a source, a woman was forcibly separated from her infant, and an organizer of the solidarity effort was “disappeared” by “unknown persons.” Fourteen supporters remained in jail as of Aug. 7.

During a demonstration outside of the police station, recently released union supporters declared: “Being released is just the beginning of our struggle, and we will continue to fight! Firmly uphold the legitimate rights and interests of workers! Insist on forming a union! Show the power of our Chinese workers!”

Overall uptick in class struggle in China

There has been an increase in workplace actions and strikes this year, with more than 400 strikes in the first months of 2018 alone. This is an increase over the same period last year. There has been a steady growth of strike actions from just 200 in 2011 to 1256 in 2017. Additionally, courts deal with hundreds of thousands of labor disputes annually.

Strike actions are not restricted to the manufacturing sector and can be found in white-collar, service, transportation, and e-commerce settings. Wage theft is a common cause of job actions, with workers having few legal or contractual protections. In January 2018, teachers gathered in Beijing to demand the recovery of pensions that have been stolen.

The Chinese state has responded to these actions with repression, including arrests and physical abuse. All of this is happening in the context of growing income inequality, austerity measures, factory closings, rising unemployment, and housing prices becoming increasingly unaffordable for the average worker.

Build solidarity with Jasic Technologies workers!

Unions, human rights organizations, and the socialist movement should build solidarity with Chinese workers’ struggles. Support for the right to organize at Jasic Technologies is an urgent task. We call on all labor, student, human rights, and socialist organizations to support these beleaguered workers.

We demand the immediate release of all of the arrested and disappeared. All fired workers must be reinstated with compensation for lost pay. Police and company thugs must be punished. The workers must have the right to form an independent union without company or government harassment.

Photo from Rights Network.