To Your Heart's Content

Friday, September 01, 2006

Walmart Unionized in China?

Perhaps you've heard about the unionization of Walmart in China. At first glance, it sounds like an epic development for China and for the workers of Walmart. Funny how Walmart becomes unionized in a country that little tolerates dissent. One would conclude that western companies then are willing to do almost anything to tap the China market. However, it's not that simple and one easily understands why Walmart has been 'unionized' in China without as much protest by the anti-union megastore. According to an article in the Mercury News,

"But less is here than meets the eye. The federation [Federation of Trade Unions] is not a union alliance in the Western sense. It's controlled by the ruling Communist Party, allows no competing labor unions, rejects free elections of its leaders and often goes to bat on the side of management over workers under the guise of harmonious economic development.

It's also a federation in a fix. It struggles to gain dues-paying members in the thriving private sector and craves international legitimacy. Almost no union confederation abroad recognizes it officially."

Well, great PR deal for Walmart, who now looks somewhat more benevolent on the surface. But it seams to be little more than a small step on a very long road. I suppose at least something is better than nothing. In any case, for those of you who shop at Walmart (and I must admit I have before), this is part of what keeps the prices down. And, Walmart is, after all, creating tons of jobs and gives all of its workers medical and retirement benefits, maternity and paternity leave, as well as other benefits, which certainly is not bad for China.


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