CLB’s latest research report analyses years of worker organizing and action at Walmart stores across China, as well as the workers’ fight to reclaim the trade union for themselves.
But Walmart is not alone in being the target of shop worker activism in China. The rise of e-commerce platforms over the last five years has put huge pressure on brick and mortar retail outlets, where closures are common and workers are often left without pay or any compensation when businesses go south. CLB’s Strike Map has recorded a total of 36 strikes and collective protests by retail workers so far this year, about 3.5 percent of all incidents, compared with just one percent of all incidents recorded in 2014.
CLB’s report, China’s Walmart workers: Creating an opportunity for genuine trade unionism, shows that determined and united worker action can bring about positive results even when faced with the world’s largest retailer. One of the best known examples of worker activism in the retail sector came in 2014 when the trade union leader at Walmart’s Changde store, Huang Xingguo, organized his colleagues in a month-long campaign for compensation after Walmart suddenly announced the store’s closure The campaign eventually forced Walmart to increase its compensation offer by 3,000 yuan per person.
Not all retail workers’ actions are successful but, as two incidents this month show, even when the boss vanishes, workers are still determined to get paid.