LER students need to be prepared to enter a global workforce, and LER faculty are making that happen with global knowledge and timely research.
Professor Ying Chen, who teaches International HRM and Labor Relations in China, is co-authoring new research regarding the relationship between employee’s union commitment and their propensity to strike in multi-national companies based in China.
Labor unions in China have no legal right to organize workers or call for members to strike, but Chen has found strong ties between workers’ commitment to their unions and their intentions to participate in wildcat strikes when they think their labor rights are severely violated. Chen found workers with high union commitment are more likely to have good personal relationships with their union leaders and their direct supervisors. Such good personal relationships, in turn, empowered them to be willing to participate in a wildcat strike.
In cases where workers are very respectful of authority, this likelihood of high union commitment leading to intentions to strike increases even more. If members are extremely respectful of authority, those that feel the company has violated their labor rights are more likely to feel oppressed and violated, ending in a stronger intention of rebellion.
Conventional wisdom in the United States is that Chinese unions are quite different than US unions, with no power to affect significant change in the workplace; Chen continues to discover examples to the contrary. As labor unions decline in membership in the United States, official union membership is on the rise in China and there have been increasing numbers of labor conflicts, particularly within multi-national companies. While the perception is that Chinese official unions are useless because it is under control of Chinese government, relegating the groups to the status of social clubs, however, the strong relationships that are built within the unions through social activities create a sense of unity and community among the workers, giving them the courage to channel their collective voice and stand up for their rights.
Chen believes that the smart companies are finding ways to provide channels for their workers to voice concerns and frustrations, so that they don’t feel the need to find empowerment and support in the arms of their union community. If they feel that the company respects them and listens to them, they are more likely to use those channels and avoid the wildcat strikes. If the workers aren’t finding that comfort within their company, they build stronger relationships with their coworkers and supervisors through social club activities organized by the official unions, often leading to intention to strikes and unrest when they feel their labor rights are violated.
More about Ying Chen:
LER 590E Government Regulation and Employment Law
LER 566 International Human Resource Management