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Chinese labor unions and US corporate evil - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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October 13th, 2006


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12:16 am - Chinese labor unions and US corporate evil
So, I read an article about China thinking of giving actual power to labor unions there and to actually do something to protect worker's rights, and the first section of this article reads:
China is planning to adopt a new law that seeks to crack down on sweatshops and protect workers’ rights by giving labor unions real power for the first time since it introduced market forces in the 1980’s. The move, which underscores the government’s growing concern about the widening income gap and threats of social unrest, is setting off a battle with American and other foreign corporations that have lobbied against it by hinting that they may build fewer factories here.
In case you ever doubt that capitalism, especially corporate capitalism is anything other than a vile evil, remember this article. The article goes on to talk more about the law, which contains very modest rights, such as giving "unions collective-bargaining power and control over certain factory rules".

In any case, with burgeoning labor unions, free-speech (at least on-line) growing, and a small but both vocal and growing environmental protection movement, China may well be a reasonable place to live in 20-30 years. In 30-40 years, it may well be considerably better than the US, if not sooner. The article has one curious sentence, which reads "The proposed law is being debated after Wal-Mart Stores, the world’s biggest retailer, was forced to accept unions in its Chinese outlets." So, it looks like Wal-Mart stores have unions in China, and not the US, perhaps China will surpass the US sooner than 20 years from now as a place worth living in...

The greed and general lack of concern for anything but profits that lies at the heart of the protest by various US companies (including Dell, Ford, General Electric, Microsoft and Nike, all good choices to boycott) is truly appalling, and absolute proof that both government regulation of businesses and strong labor unions are the only way to maintain worker rights in the modern era. I'm reminded of the absolutely brilliant podcast interview of SF author Charles Stross I listened to a couple of weeks ago, where (amidst much other fascinating discussion) he considers the idea that corporations are entities that have goals and interests that may be inherently at odds with the welfare of humanity. Not an unreasonable idea at all. I still remain both baffled and utterly appalled at the number of people who are not wealthy business owners who are anti-union.
Current Mood: angryangry

(35 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:jonathansfox
Date:October 13th, 2006 10:43 am (UTC)
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If you ever have any doubt that corporate capitalism isn't a vile evil, try asking the people you claim to stand up for, what they think of their oppressors.

http://www.globescan.com/news_archives/pipa_market.html

Could it be that the Chinese like multinational corporations? I would never have guessed.

"Evil" corporations have done amazing things for China, and they know it. As their economy matures, the Chinese will change in priorities, and economic philosophy. In time, they will become less pro-market, as the market serves them less and less, and the memory of their failed alternatives fades. Even the US isn't as pro-market as China is today. This you're posting about is one of those changes, a slow shift toward the left, the outcome of their prosperity.

It's natural that the corporations will resist -- it's their purpose to serve their own interests, after all -- but they're only stalling. Corporate greed is not an all-powerful evil, but an economic tool encouraged because it helps achieve the kind of growth that gives China such faith in it.

Unionization is the inevitable and predictable socioeconomic result of the rapid development the evil corporations have brought to China. Without those evil corporations, their employees would still be small scale rural farmers trying to make a small profit and support China's massive population, instead of newly unionized factory workers making big wages and speaking out on the Internet.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:October 13th, 2006 06:57 pm (UTC)
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Could it be that the Chinese like multinational corporations? I would never have guessed.

If a good number of people were not feeling screwed over by the corporations, there would be no move to empower unions in China. Unions arise from labor unrest, so clearly that's happening in China.
[User Picture]
From:jonathansfox
Date:October 14th, 2006 02:52 am (UTC)
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Even in U.S. Politics, unions and industry are often found on the same side when it comes to issues facing the industry, because what is good for a corporation is, all other things being equal, good for its employees. But what point is there in raising passions over an issue everyone agrees on? Unions only need to take action when they have an argument. The fact that their passions are always used to fight their parent corporations does not mean that they hate those corporations. The number of people who favor more regulation to protect labor in China is much larger than the number of people who simply distrust corporations, or don't believe in market economics. Equating pro-union sentiment one to one with anti-corporate or anti-capitalist sentiment is simply false. Unionization, and all the fights and disagreements that it entails, is part of the process of capitalism, not a sign of its weakness.
[User Picture]
From:heronheart
Date:October 13th, 2006 12:57 pm (UTC)
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Ironically, one of my morning newsletters included this article http://www.forestrycenter.org/headlines.cfm?refid=89242 about plywood imported from China which is illegal to build with in China because of the formaldehyde it emits.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:October 13th, 2006 06:58 pm (UTC)
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That's deeply scary - we are becoming the world's dumping ground.
[User Picture]
From:antayla
Date:October 13th, 2006 02:24 pm (UTC)

Let em leave.

(Link)
I figure, people should be free to organize into whatever collective organizations they want, and businesses and people should be free to leave if they want.

Besides, if they actually follow though with their threat, it would be a good step towards the relocalization of economy and reduction of consumerism (if these companies come back to the US, the price of the goods will go up and people will buy fewer of them.)

There really shouldn't be any restrictions on labor unions (aside from the "non-force" deal) any more than there shouldn't restrictions on business (same deal.)
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:October 13th, 2006 07:01 pm (UTC)

Re: Let em leave.

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if these companies come back to the US, the price of the goods will go up and people will buy fewer of them

Not really much chance of that as long as there is some 3rd world nation w/o any labor or environmental laws where they can relocate to. There's still a lot of the planet to despoil, they aren't coming back to the US anytime soon.
[User Picture]
From:slothman
Date:October 13th, 2006 05:58 pm (UTC)
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Capitalism isn’t evil. The accounting system that is used by modern corporations is. If you place a reasonable dollar value on the environment, human rights, and so on, and examine the entire life cycle of a product rather than just the path from raw materials to consumer purchase, you’ll find that government is giving monstrously huge subsidies to corporations that are distorting the market. Every product that doesn’t biodegrade cleanly within a limited amount of time should carry an extra cost for its proper disposal, and every product whose production releases emissions into the environment should carry an extra cost to clean up those emissions. Get that kind of reform into place and you’ll be amazed at how good capitalism is.
[User Picture]
From:risu
Date:October 13th, 2006 10:59 pm (UTC)
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> The . . . general lack of concern for anything but profits

I would suggest that this is the heart of it.

Not what corporations want but what they *don't* want; or, rather, the paucity of the space of their desires.

I'd actually further suggest that it is vital to the health of any conceptual structure that it have a minimum of two linearly independent interests to satisfy.

Rebecca
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:October 14th, 2006 06:22 am (UTC)
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I've seen this same argument applied to governments, it made excellent sense for them and it makes excellent sense for corporations - well thought!
[User Picture]
From:heronheart
Date:October 14th, 2006 05:46 pm (UTC)

Charles Stross Podcast

(Link)
I'm reminded of the absolutely brilliant podcast interview of SF author Charles Stross I listened to a couple of weeks ago, where (amidst much other fascinating discussion) he considers the idea that corporations are entities that have goals and interests that may be inherently at odds with the welfare of humanity.

I wanted to thank you for linking to this podcast. I listened to it today and it is fascinating.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 16th, 2006 05:12 pm (UTC)
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Well of course. It's not the job of capitalism (or merchantilism or any kind of economic system) to protect the worker.

That's the purpose of government:
To protect individual rights.

[User Picture]
From:blue_estro
Date:October 18th, 2006 05:38 am (UTC)
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I still remain both baffled and utterly appalled at the number of people who are not wealthy business owners who are anti-union.

I wasn't anti-union until I started working in a human resources office and get to see how often the good employees get shafted by being under a union contract.

I understand the historical uses of unions, and what they should be doing were they true to their idealized roots. What actually seems to have happened is that many of them have turned into special self-interested beasts of their own, with morality much akin to the corporations they battle.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:October 18th, 2006 07:02 am (UTC)
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Perhaps in some cases, and yet w/o them the situation is almost always considerably worse, as can be seen from the conditions in union stores liek Safeway vs. Wal-Mart, and in many similar situation. Some unions may be far from ideal, but their present better than not having them.
[User Picture]
From:blue_estro
Date:October 20th, 2006 09:05 pm (UTC)
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Have you ever read "The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas" (PDF copy here) by LeGuin?

Working in a HR office, where all of the reps try to be people rather than corporate instantiations, makes the exceptions seem more noticeable than the general benefits. So the young mom, who is an excellent employee, will not get the position-promotion she deserves, because the lackluster employee, who just does the minimum requirement, has seniority.

The employee who attacked a coworker with a machete? The union grieved his dismissal.

And yeah, these are small beer in the name of defense against Wal-Mart and other Emporor Palpatine... but it is still the child in the basement.

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