This is at the “new” restaurant that had just opened two years ago, down the street from TDT, the place where the huge eel escaped from the tank and the chef had to go chasing it under people’s tables and brag it and whack it like a whip. It has by now settled down into a sports and seafood place where they do hot pots for whole teams of soccer fans. The waiters are boys in their early teens wearing red T-shirts. A TDT student works there and helps us order.
This is the menu from Ho Lo Quan at #78 Vo Van Tan Street in HCMC where we met Jonathan Luu for dinner on Thursday last week. We had the mango salad, deep fried pork ribs, something called “chicken knees,” and several other things that don’t seem to be on the menu, and it was wonderful. He works at an asset management company (he’s from Austin, TX but went to Temple in Philly, was a PhD candidate there in Philosophy but came to VN to investigate community organizing here; speaks some VN but was not raised to speak it) and “leads two lives” — the other one in Hanoi where he works out in rural areas with a friend who organizes a pepper-growing cooperative. Stories of the contrasts between these two lives will emerge eventually.
This is a barn near Vy’s grandmother’s home in Cu Chi. Brown cows are for meat, the black and white cows are for milk, and just down the street is a building with the sign saying “Bring your raw milk here and we will take it to Vinamilk,” which is the big milk company. Also down the street and out back are fields of grass for the cows to eat.
There is almost too much to say about that trip. It was wonderful to see Vy and An again and spend some extended time with them. Vy’s family is a whole story in itself. An met us at TDT and we rode up to Cu Chi in an Uber. It took 3 hours and I could hardly breathe going through the city because of the pollution, even in the car. The drivers’ story: His other job is transporting water hyacinths from the Mekong delta, where they are grown (in the water, of course) up to a more central province where they are dried and woven into baskets, mats, just about anything you can imagine. He showed us a photo of one of the final products: a basket that I actually bought at Target in Massachusetts as a wastebasket, two years ago, for about $17, off a shelf full of products from Viet Nam. The weavers get 30,000 or about $1.20 per basket. Cost of an Uber each way: 600,000 – 650,000 or about $27.
Below is an ad for workers to come and work in a textile factory, posted on the road near Vy’s family’s home. The employer will send a bus to pick them up. Men and women over 18 should apply. Wages are in millions of dong per month. Current minimum wage according to http://tradingeconomics.com is 3,750,000. Living wage for an individual is 4,011,373 and for a family it’s 5,790,475.
We can use this photo in the collective bargaining simulations which we will start this coming Friday. The class plan will be a version of what we did in Ms. La’s class. In Ms. La’s class, we told a simple description of a factory (handbags, so that we could have some health and safety issues with cutting equipment and needles) and then asked them to develop a plan for handling 13 different kinds of things that have to go on pre-bargaining. Here is a photo of them putting their plans on the board:
And here is a closeup of the last one before bargaining starts, creating a pressure campaign — there was some question about whether these were legal in VN or not.
When we start the simulation series we’ll do 1 session on preparation for bargaining, then maybe three on actual bargaining (including one on caucusing) and then two on enforcement. The point is to emphasize that collective bargaining is not just table skills; it is an arc of activity that goes from one contract to the next and involves constant internal organizing of the “collective.”
We are also each teaching our own class, plus these 2 sessions of Ms. La’s class, two of Mr,. Triet’s class on health and safety (sounds as if there is a lot about PPE in that one — maybe we’ll do body mapping), one in Vinh’s class on labor relations, and then the Journal Club and…
We were going to meet Lien Hoang, the journalist, at the Cafe La Rotonde at 77b Ham Nghi but it has been closed. The sign remains. Must have been quite a place.
You can’t quite hear the music or the clink of tea cups…