The Chinese Labor Movement: Which Way Forward?

In April, approximately 40,000 workers struck the footwear manufacturing facilities operated by Yue Yuen Industrial, a global supplier of shoes for brands such as Adidas and Nike. Although the sheer size of this walkout drew worldwide attention, in fact, Chinese workers overall are increasingly themselves organizing and taking action to improve their wages and working conditions. In 2014, workers employed at the China operations of IBM, Pepsi, and Wal-Mart – to name just the more prominent brands – walked off their jobs. There are strikes and protests each day as workers, inspired in part by the social media reports of other job actions, assert themselves.

What does this activity mean, for Chinese workers generally, for the role and future of the official, Communist Party led All China Federation of Trade Unions, and the broader society? Join us on June 18 and find out.

Featured Speaker:


Han Dongfang is Founder and Executive Director of China Labour Bulletin (CLB), a Hong Kong-based labor rights group. CLB sponsors and supports a diverse range of activities aimed at improving the lives of Chinese workers and fostering the development of independent labor organizations. Han also serves as a correspondent for Radio Free Asia, where he presents thrice-weekly radio program from Hong Kong, focusing on workers’ struggles in mainland China. He has written numerous books and articles. Over the past 15 years, Han has been an advocate for workers’ rights and trade unionism in China and a frequent speaker at international labor movement, NGO, and government-sponsored conferences around the world. In May 1989 he was co-founder and spokesperson of the Beijing Autonomous Workers Federation, China’s first independent labor organization since 1949. He headed the Chinese government’s “most wanted” list of worker activists, issued after the June 4 crackdown in Tiananmen Square, and was imprisoned without trial for 22 months. He was released in April 1991, suffering from tuberculosis contracted in prison. In September 1992 he received a year of medical treatment in the U.S., with support of the AFL-CIO and Human Rights Watch and had most of one lung removed. In August 1993 he returned to China to continue independent labor movement work and was detained in Guangzhou by the police and expelled to Hong Kong, where he continues to reside today. He has received numerous awards, including the AFL-CIO George Meany Human Rights Award and the Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy. Han sits on the board of Human Rights in China and the Albert Shanker Institute.


SHARON HOM, Executive Director, Human Rights in China

HAROLD MEYERSON, Editor-at-Large, The American Prospect; Columnist, Washington Post; Shanker Institute Board Member