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SF Rally-Speakout In Support Of Striking China Honda Transmission Workers

Tuesday, June 01, 2010
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Event Type:
Peace and Freedom Party Labor Committee
Location Details:
San Francisco Honda 10 South Van Ness at Market above the Van Ness MUNI station. southwestern entrance.

Striking Chinese Honda Transmission workers are fighting for wage parity at their plant. This rank and file strike is an important step for the Chinese workers in fighting back against the multi-nationals in China

6/1/2010 SF Rally-Speakout In Support Of Striking China Honda Transmission Workers

San Francisco Honda
10 South Van Ness at Market above the Van Ness MUNI station.southwestern entrance.
San Francisco

The critical dynamics of the Foshan Honda Transmission Workers Strike

The Foshan Honda Transmission Workers strike which has continued since May 21 has shut down all Honda production in China. The particular issue of Honda as a Japanese global corporation has made the suppression of the strike more difficult for the authorities as the remaining sensitivities to Japanese occupation and activities during WWII require very special handling on the part of officials and the Honda corporation.

The independence of the strikers from the official ACFTU (All China Federation of Trade Unions) also lends a dynamic to the work stoppage, where the official union has served only as a go between the strikers and the corporation. The strikers operate with their own organization. They have turned down already substandard offers of wage improvements.

The setting in southern China, just twenty miles west of Canton (Guangdong/Guangzhou) in Foshan, an old and established industrial city where unrelenting inflation makes life impossible for wage earners, illustrates the crisis in the coastal zone. Nearby is the ceramic center of Shiwan which has had a long industrial heritage together with Foshan.

The defense of the Foshan Strikers rises to a high priority for all supporters of trade union and workers rights. Given the central role in the auto industry and the transmission workers strategic ability to shut down all Honda production in China, this strike has already made history and brought global notice to the substandard minimum wage fight, raging across China.

Worldwide demonstration of support to force the authorities and Honda to recognize the rights of the strikers must take place at Honda facilities globally. From Greece to China, defending working people's rights here in California can most strongly progress by standing with the Foshan Honda Transmission Strikers who have stood in action for themselves and workers globally. The urgent need to defend the strike which is also our action against the untenable corporate global system that threatens the future of all humanity.

Join San Franciscans Tuesday June 1, 2010 at 4PM at San Francisco Honda 10 South Van Ness at Market above the Van Ness MUNI station.southwestern entrance.
Initiated by Peace and Freedom Party Labor Committee
To Speak and Endorse Contact (415)694-3605
Added to the calendar on Mon, May 31, 2010 7:55AM

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"China: Honda strike sends shudder through financial circles," By John Chan, 1 June 2010
A strike by 1,900 workers at the Honda Motors transmission plant in southern China paralysed production for almost two weeks and raised concerns in international financial circles about the prospect for wider unrest. Although workers yesterday agreed to return to work following government threats and a pay rise, the strike has highlighted the degree to which global capital has become dependent on China as a cheap labour platform.

The strike erupted in the Honda Automotive Components Manufacturing factory at Foshan in the southern province of Guangdong on May 17. Workers who earn just 900-1,500 yuan (US$130-$220) a month—a little higher than the local minimum wage of 920 yuan—demanded an increase to 2,000-2,500 yuan. Management promised to address the issue and the strike was halted.

However, when workers found out that the pay rises would fall far short of their expectations and that strike leaders would be fired, a second strike erupted on May 22, forcing Honda to suspend production at its four assembly plants in China last week. The strike threatened Honda’s plans to boost output by one-third, to 480,000 vehicles, by the end of 2011.

Honda management rejected the demands on strikers and insisted workers had to sign a no-strike pledge. A note distributed last Thursday to workers at the plant stated that they “absolutely will not lead, organise or participate in work slowdown, stoppages or strikes.” Many workers refused.

Speaking to the Financial Times, workers were particularly disgusted with the role of the state-controlled All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), which put itself forward as a mediator but openly sided with management and the government. “The official union leaders are useless and support management,” one worker told the newspaper.

In recent years, the ACFTU, with government backing, has expanded aggressively in foreign enterprises as a means of suppressing unrest among workers. Far from representing the interests of workers, the ACFTU acts as an instrument of the government and management. A union official at the Honda plant’s ACFTU office disowned the striking workers, saying they “have organised this [strike] themselves”.

Honda operates joint-ventures in China with the Dongfeng Motor Corporation, which is controlled by the central government, and the Guangzhou Automobile Industry Group. These state firms are listed on the stock markets and have joint ventures with other Japanese and Western automakers.

Honda attempted to split the strikers by putting pressure on school interns, who made up more than half the workforce. The government, which allows companies to employ students as a source of cheap labour, ordered schools to force their interns to sign the no-strike letter. Honda offered the interns a monthly pay rise of 400 yuan if they did.

According to the South China Morning Post, about 200 interns from Guangdong were bused to Tao Yuan Secondary on May 29 to sign the note. An intern from Qingyuan Vocational Technical School said nearly 30 of his 40 classmates had signed the letter, but he refused. The headmaster told him that the strike “has badly affected our national image and has ruined ties between China and Japan”. The student was warned that he would receive no school certificates and “that those involved in social unrest would be sent to the public security department as punishment”.

By yesterday, most workers accepted the company’s offer to raise starting salaries by 336 yuan ($49) a month—far less than had been demanded. Tensions at the factory gates were high and scuffles broke out with union officials, some of whom were attempting to video strikers. The South China Morning Post reported that workers said they had been surrounded at one point by 200 union officials and beaten. Riot police were deployed to oversee the resumption of work.

The strike is a sign of sharpening class tensions in China amid the worsening global economic crisis. While China’s economic growth rate continues to be high, propped up by huge stimulus spending, the gulf between rich and poor is widening. Last year there were 98,568 labour disputes filed in Chinese courts, up 59 percent on the previous year. Most disputes, however, were not reported.

Industrial action is semi-illegal in China. The right to strike was removed from the constitution in 1982 as the Chinese Communist Party regime implemented a pro-market agenda. The flood of foreign investment expanded after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, which demonstrated that the government would not hesitate to crack down on the working class. The police are frequently mobilised to suppress protests, including strikes.

In the case of the Honda strike, the government was reluctant to use brute force against the workers, because of mounting public anger over sweatshop conditions and the danger of triggering wider industrial action in the key auto industry.

The auto giants are planning major expansions in China, which has become a crucial commercial battleground. Volkswagen, a leading auto seller in China, plans a massive base in Foshan by 2013, with an annual capacity of 300,000 cars. Honda’s aim is to reach an annual output of 830,000 vehicles, from the current 650,000, by late 2012. Honda CEO Takanobu Ito declared that in 10 years, China “may become the company’s largest single market”.

This expansion is dependent on consumer subsidies, which were part of the government’s stimulus package. China’s auto sales jumped by 40 percent last year. A small layer of the middle-class is now able to afford a car, but it remains a dream for the majority of workers. Auto wages rose by just 9.1 percent last year to an average hourly rate of $1.46.

The Honda strike has sparked international headlines, particularly in the financial press. The coverage reflects concerns that labour unrest could seriously disrupt global production processes, which rely heavily on China’s cheap labour. Any political crisis in China would only compound the growing financial instability being fuelled by the European debt crisis.

A New York Times article said the significance of the strike at Honda was that “transmission factories are the most expensive auto plants of all to build, because they are huge and highly automated”. As a result, “Automakers tend to put transmission factories only in the most politically stable and strike-free countries, because a shutdown for even a day is costly. Until now, China was seen as a safe bet.”

The New York Times expressed fears that Chinese workers would follow the example of the sit-down strikes by American auto workers in the 1930s, causing a domino effect throughout the Chinese auto industry, including in General Motors plants. General Motors is the largest foreign-owned car company in China, with sales jumping by 66.9 percent last year to 1.83 million.

Social tensions in China have been further highlighted by the spate of suicides at the giant Foxconn factory in Shenzhen that employs 400,000 workers. Foxconn is the world’s largest outsourcing electronic manufacturer, producing goods for corporations such as Apple and Dell. Details of the huge plant and dormitories, which is more like a small Chinese city than a factory, have provided a graphic insight into the harsh military-style labour regime, constant stress and alienation that is the lot of tens of millions of workers in China.

The publicity surrounding the Honda strike and Foxconn suicides has forced Chinese officials to promise to end “sweatshop” conditions in China. The reality, however, is that the Chinese economy and, to a large extent the global economy, rests on the low-wage production in China. The reverberations from the strike by a relatively small number of Honda workers are just an indication of the political and economic ramifications of any broader upheaval of the Chinese working class.
by Peace and Freedom Party Labor Committee
Photograph of some of the pickets at SF Honda dealership
A Honda Worker in China Speaks Out at Close of Historic Strike
A Honda Worker in China Speaks Out at Close of Historic Strike
by Labor Notes Staff | Wed, 06/02/2010 - 5:11pm
Labor Notes Staff's blog

“Our parents have suffered from this cheap labor market and now they are getting old. Do we want to follow in the footstep of our parents?” asks an anonymous Honda worker in China in an internet posting explaining the motivations behind a stunning two-week strike that shut down Honda’s production across the country.

Strikes are not illegal in China, but they are usually crushed, hushed up, or settled so quickly few outside the immediate vicinity become aware of them. This action, to the contrary, starved Honda’s four Chinese assembly plants of key transmission and engine parts, set off a near-panic in the business press as investors fretted about the open show of defiance, and reportedly succeeded in winning a 24 pay increase.

The 1,900 workers at the parts plant, who make between $131 and $219 a month, had walked out demanding a 53 percent rise in compensation and the ability to elect their union officials. There's no information yet about whether that demand has been met, but the plant is restarting production today as a small group of militants holds out against the settlement. Two strike leaders, meanwhile, were fired during the action. Here’s the post, discovered and translated by Hong Kong labor activist Au Loong-Yu:

Honda is a Fortune 500 company! It earned more than 4 billion yuan ($586 million) last year! It earned more than a billion the year before that! Let’s compare Honda with other businesses. But none can really compare with it! This is a Fortune 500 company which earned more than 4 billion in 2009 but only pays minimum wages to workers. It gives you a 1,000 yuan a month, which is only enough for food, and holidays are not included! Would you dare to work for this company?

You may say Honda has contributed to our pensions and other companies have not. Mind you, it is illegal for employers to fail to contribute to a pension fund. You must file complaints to the labor bureau. A Fortune 500 company simply cannot do such openly illegal things! This time it increased our wages. 355 yuan! The increase is made up of a basic wage raise of 200 yuan, a living allowance raise of 35 yuan and a meal allowance raise of 120 yuan. You may say that after this pay raise our wage level reached 1500 yuan. All surrounding businesses also offer wages at this level. But how can one compare Honda with other businesses when Honda earns more than 4 billion yuan in annual profit? And this profit may even increase in the future. We all know that the automotive industry is a highly profitable industry. This is created by us frontline workers! But what do those of us who create the profits get? If we are not satisfied we can of course resign, but Honda will continue to recruit people, and our brothers and sisters would continue to suffer here! Even if we quit we have to fight for our brothers’ and sisters’ benefit! This is another reason for us to continue to strike!

Some people even say that because we are just secondary technical school students and vocational school students, we do not deserve higher wages. First of all I would like to ask: are you looking down on us as technical secondary school students? I strongly despise you! Although we are technical secondary school students, we have created a profit of 4 billion yuan a year! Can you do that? No, you can’t!

On May 17 when the strike began, the high-level Japanese management ordered us to resume production. We responded that we would do so and gave them a week to reply to our demands or else we would quit. Then they secretly fired our leaders! The general manager, in his office, mocked us as fools. Where was their good will? So we went on strike again on May 21. The Japanese managers have resorted to taking pictures of us, to threaten us to resume production! At this critical moment our great trade union did nothing for us! Instead they just wanted us to go back to the production line! Is this what a union should be doing? You take from our monthly wages 5 yuan for union dues but look what you had done for us! On May 22 the Japanese manager sacked two of our leaders to threaten us to resume production. So is this your good will? On May 24 you announced that you would increase our allowances from 65 yuan to 120, an increase of just 55 yuan! So this is your good will? And you continue to make video recordings to threaten us. This is another reason why we continue to strike.

China! It has been promoting low-cost competition and cheap labor. Our GDP keeps growing! However, this growth relies on exploiting our cheap labor. We have created all this wealth but only get very low wages in return. Our wages are still at the level of the minimum wage. We are still struggling to get by with this. We created this wealth. Don’t we deserve to get better pay? With such deplorable wages, just how are we going to raise the overall level of our national economy? This (kind of injustice) is just too common! Our parents have suffered from this cheap labor market and now they are getting old. And now, do we, the post ‘80 and ‘90 generation, want to follow in the footstep of our parents? I believe no parent wants this. It is because they all once walked down this road and know how hard it is. We do not want to go this way either. Times have changed! So this kind of cheap labor regime must end!

Honda is a Japanese company and Japan is a capitalist country. But China is supposed to be a socialist country! The Japanese companies investing in China must follow the rules of China. Implement socialism! Do not give us capitalism!
by Auto parts
we cant blame the honda workers, its for all supporters of trade union and workers rights. each one of us has the right as an employee.Honda also has a lot of recalls cause of some auto parts faults..
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