Walmart is forced to recognize labor unions in China, not typically a problem for business because the unions are under management thumb. But suddenly, the Arkansas retail giant has a problem, the New York Times reports.
Am online effort has organized protests and boycotts against the company over punishing working conditions and low pay. The big wrinkle is that the government seems to be standing aside and letting the protest movement grow. The government has moved against other activists.
But activism against Walmart’s more than 400 stores in China in recent months has followed a different pattern: workers in several cities agitating against the same company, bypassing official unions controlled by the Communist Party and using social media to coordinate their actions — while the authorities largely stand aside.
Across China, Walmart employees have raised their fists at protests, chanting, “Workers, stand up!” They have appealed to local officials with patriotic fervor, invoking the struggles of Mao Zedong against foreign imperialists. They have posted screeds online against unkind bosses and “union puppets.”
In doing so, the Chinese work force of the world’s largest retail chain has put the ruling Communist Party in an uncomfortable position, publicly testing its Marxist commitment to defend the working class and pitting that against its fear of independent labor activism.
It doesn’t appear to be a wild exaggeration to say workers in communist China are enjoying more freedom to organize against Walmart than workers experience in the home of the brave and the land of the free.