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Report On Chinese Labor Scholars Collective Bargaining Study Tour To US
Source labornet@labornet.org
Date 09/02/25/15:18

Chinese Labor Scholars Collective Bargaining Study Tour
February 7 – 17, 2009
Sponsored by the American Center for Labor Solidarity (AFL-CIO)

As the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) continues to face extraordinary pressure from workers seeking legitimate means to redress labor law violations, it is beginning to reform collective bargaining practices. Chinese scholars and researchers have been actively studying foreign methods of collective bargaining and developing proposals to adapt relevant features to the Chinese situation. As part of this effort, four respected labor scholars (profiles below), have just concluded a ten day study tour in the Washington DC, Boston and Berkeley to learn about both collective bargaining and the union institutions necessary to support effective labor relations.

In a significant gesture of international solidarity between the U.S. and Chinese labor movements, this tour was sponsored primarily by the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (AFL-CIO), with considerable support from the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, and the Center for Labor Research and Education at University of California / Berkeley. The work of Nalishha Mehta and Jennifer Kuhlman at the ACILS, and invaluable contribution of interpreters Barbarba Hong Li, Marty Zhu, Eli David Friedman and Zhongshi Chen were essential to the success of the tour.

The study tour included exchanges with a great variety of practitioners, from grass-roots organizers in immigrant day laborer centers to presidents of international unions, including:

· Earl Brown, Director of China Programs, Solidarity Center

· Tim Beaty, Director of Global Strategies, International Brotherhood of Teamsters

· Fernando Garavito, Casa de Maryland, Day Laborer Center

· Dan Pedrotty, AFL-CIO Capital Strategies

· Andy Stern, President; Christy Hoffman, Director of Global Partnerships, Josie Mooney, Assistant to the President , Service Employees International Union

· Owen Herrnstadt, Director of Trade & Globalization, International Association of Machinists

· Mike Zielinski, United Steelworkers Union of America

· David Strom, General Counsel, American Federation of Teachers

· Bob Stropp, Lawyer at Mooney, Green, Baker & Saindon, PC

· Jon Hiatt, General Counsel, and Barbara Shailor, Director of International Affairs, AFL-CIO

· Michael Grunko, President SEIU Local #509, Watertown MA

· Kris Rondeau and Marie Manna, Harvard Clerical and Technical Workers Union

· Prof. Elizabeth Perry, Director Harvard-Yenching Institute

· Russ Davis, Director, Massachusetts Jobs with Justice

· Paul Garver, International Union of Foodworkers (ret.)

· Tim Costello, Global Labor Strategies

· Steve Early, Communication Workers of America (ret.)

· Wadi’h Halabi, consultant to Chinese Academy of Marxism

· Amee Hubin Chew, Chinese Progressive Association

· Elaine Bernard, Executive Director, Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School

· Katie Quan, Center for Labor Research and Education, University of California-Berkeley

· Tim Paulson, San Francisco Labor Council

· Joel Schaffer, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service

· Cathy Walker, Canadian Auto Workers Union (ret.)

· David Rosenfeld, Boalt Law School, University of California-Berkeley

· Ken Jacobs, Chair, UC Berkeley Labor Center

· UCB Labor Center scholars: Cheryl Brown, Carol Zabin, John Logan, Steven Pitts, Alexis Mazon

· Jamie Thompson, SEIU Local 1877

· Dennis Kelly, President of United Educators of San Francisco

· Peter Olney, International Longshore Workers Union

· Garrett Brown, Maquiladora Health and Safety Support Network

· Nikki Bas, Acting Executive Director, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy

· David Bacon, labor journalist

· Ellen David Friedman, NEA (ret.)

· 38 union leaders from US, Canada, Australia & UK, all participants in the 2009 session of the Harvard Trade Union Program

The topics which seemed to most interest the delegation included:

o Internal union structures, and the relationships among governance, staff and membership;

o Collective bargaining preparation, conduct, scope of issues, duration of negotiations, interest-based vs. positional bargaining;

o Union revenue systems, setting of dues levels, distribution of dues among governing union levels, establishment of union salaries for staff and officers, budget reporting, financial transparency;

o Roles of elected and appointed union leaders to the employer; stewards; release time arrangements; conflicts of interest in representing workers against the employer

o Problems of immigrant workers; racism, organizing strategies and challenges with undocumented workers; comparisons to Chinese domestic migrant worker labor issues;

o Contract campaigns, membership recruitment, internal union education, mobilization, community-labor alliances, the relation of political action to union goals;

o Sectoral organizing and bargaining, coordinated negotiations among multiple employers, industrial strategies;

o The effects of the fiscal crisis on workers, concessionary bargaining, anti-union campaigns, trends in unionization, labor law violations by employers;

o Competition and cooperation between unions and union federations; public opinion, and public policy issues;

o Personal motivations, career paths and lifestyle implications for individuals in labor leadership

o Advanced labor education and university / labor collaboration and programs

The labor scholars were not traveling with the authorization nor ability to establish formal relations, nor express policy direction. Nevertheless, they each conveyed personal priorities for deeper study, exchange and future possibilities for collaboration with labor academics and practitioners in the west. In their own research, teaching, policy development and shaping of the industrial relations field, it is hoped they will evaluate and integrate useful features of the U.S. labor relations model.

Participant’s Profiles:

  • Professor Feng Tongqing (DOB 10/15/47) graduated with a Master Degree in Law from Beijing Normal University in 1985. He lives in Beijing and heads the China Industrial Relations Institute as Deputy President. In the last 20 years or so, he has devoted himself to the study of Chinese workers, labour relations and trade union theories and practices. His main publications include: Conditions of Chinese Workers – Internal Structures and Relations (Chinese Social Sciences Publishing House, 1993) and The Future of Chinese Workers - Workers' Social Actions since the Reform (Chinese Social Sciences Archives Publishing House, 2002).

  • Professor He Gaochao (DOB 3/11/56) is a political scientist by training. He received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago in 1993, and is currently the Chair of the Political Science Department at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China. Professor He has conducted various surveys and interviews on workplace politics in China since 1995. His research interests mainly focus on the changing labor relations among the state, trade union, managers and workers in China, including both workers with the formal status of employees and those without (migrant workers). He is working on a book manuscript of Politics at Workplace: Remaking of Chinese Working Class in the Era of Reform. He is also organizing a center for comparative labor studies in Sun Yat-Sen University, and coordin

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