Thursday | July 25, 2019

This panel was presented by the Albert Shanker Institute and the American Federation of Teachers at the 8th Education International World Congress in Bangkok, Thailand

Teacher Unionism, Labor Rights and Democratic Struggles in Asia

From Solidarność in Poland and COSATU in South Africa to CUT in Chile and UGTT in Tunisa, trade unions have been in the forefront of struggles for democracy for the last half century. Teacher unions in particular have a played leading role in these struggles, as we stand at the nexus of the labor movement, education and civil society. And given this frontline position, teacher unions are often among the first targets of authoritarian rulers and states.

In East and Southeast Asia today, progress toward more open and democratic forms of governance, with critical battles over respect for labor rights, the rule of law and universal suffrage in free elections being waged as we meet. In recent days, massive demonstrations have filled the streets of Hong Kong in protest against measures that would undermine the autonomy of the city and extend authoritarian rule from the mainland; in Korea, the Korean Teachers Union is fighting to regain its legal status, after being outlawed by a right wing government in 2013 which engaged in mass firings. In Thailand, freedom of association for most working people, including teachers, is denied. In each of those countries, teachers and teacher unions have strong, organic ties to democracy movements.

We will hear from three figures in the middle of these battles.

Tin Fong Chak, Vice President, Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union
Hyunsu Hwang, Vice President, Korean Teachers and Education Worker's Union
Piya Kritayakirana, Program Manager, Solidarity Center Thailand
Moderator: Leo Casey, Executive Director, Albert Shanker Institute, US