Hansae Sept 28, 2017


The TDT car picked us up at 5:45 am. The driver had had a late night trip so he slept in a meeting room on campus and was taking a shower in the gym restroom when we came out. Vinh and That brought mooncakes, like a fruitcake with an egg yolk in the middle, for us to snack on while we travel. Vinh was doing the Vietnamese powerpoints but her computer ran out of battery so she transferred to my computer but had to install the VN script, which she had to download from her phone access to the internet as we passed through heavy early morning traffic in District and then on out northwest to Cu Chi.

You go in through a gate, get VIP passes, and then there’s a view of this vast industrial zone factory. Vast 2These were taken when we walked over to the canteen for Korean managers at lunch. We passed their housing; felt like housing on an army base.

Vast 1

Overall, the day went as planned. that is to say, we did the things we planned to do in the order we set. There were some additional things we did, too, and they all worked.

Hansae had everything we needed — projector, screen, moveable chairs, whiteboard with markers, water.The General Manager came and introduced himself quickly at the beginning and left. Joe had prepared a timeline of the interaction among USAS, WRC, FLA, Nike, Hansea, and BetterWork; he had also printed out the websites of all the international organizations (those, for example, plus the ILO — this handout is available upon request) that spoke to the labor standards issue. They appreciated our preparation, which I originally thought was excessive but turned out to be right on. Our host was a young man who is both union and HR, named Thinh; we hope to keep in touch with him.

Among the participants, management entered the room first. Then workers. Thinh explained that the workers had to set up their work assignments before they could come, and some were far away and they had to come on bicycles. Total: 27, with two or three management who came in the morning and left, or came in the afternoon only.

Basically, this will follow the schedule I put up int he previous post.

We had people read aloud (in Vietnamese translation) the handout listing the problems that workers had reported to the WRC. The group then told us which ones had been taken care of and which remained:

issues remaining.JPG

We broke the participants into four groups, two workers and two management. This took a leap of faith, but we did it. Then we set them to picking which issues each group would choose to prepare to bargain.

Groups one and two are workers: groups 3 and 4 are management.

Barg is W1Barg issu W2

Barg issues 3MBrg is M 4

In between some of these we had break, lunch, and a couple of min-lectures.

Then they prepared their bargaining proposals, based on the priorities of their own groups. Here are the two workers’ groups:


Wrks grp 1Wrk grp 2

Here are the management groups:Mgmt grp1mgmt grp 2

Then they bargained.  We had a whole hour for this, and it involved many stops and starts. We intervened once to prevent an agreement, which – since this wasn’t a real life bargaining session where people were authorized to agree – would have been a big problem. We intervened to get management to caucus, etc etc.


We got through the first management caucus and response, and the workers were starting to respond when we had to stop because it was nearly 4:30.

Lesson: Collective bargaining a highly choreographed dance, very formal, very careful; emphasize the contrast between dialog at the table and workers marching in the street. Very much to my mind like martial arts: a display of intensity, attention and discipline. But you have to know how to do it. You have to know the moves. A break from the protocol (for example, if one party suddenly speaks in a patronizing tone to signal or remind the other party of the inequality that exists away from the table)  can be hard to repair.

The news about the TDT students involvement was greeted with what almost seemed like relief; hopefully, Cornell students will be able to visit in January. Lots of “keep in touch.”

Final grp

Final photo.

We projected these photos on my blog in the simulation class today (Friday the 29th), with commentary and analysis The next step is for the TDT students to connect with the Cornell students and the USAS students. They will try to do this in spite of having mid-terms next week.


That explaining what was going on at the table at Hansae yesterday. Big discussion in class about Vietnam labor law, under which a manager who is not on the Board of Directors or who does not/could not sign the CBA is legally allowed to be a member of the union and can be elected to an office in the union. Although this is a situation that has caught the eyes of the USAS students, it is not the main problem. Nor is it a problem that is going to get addressed in time for Nike to re-up its contacts with Hansae. The main problem is the need for membership education and leadership development within the workforce, sufficient to engage in real collective bargaining that would give workers a voice in improving their own conditions and enforcing the agreement, so that they would not have to go on strike in order to get management’s attention.










Published by helenaworthen

Labor educator, retired from University of Illinois, taught at TDT University in Ho Chi Minh City in the Faculty of Trade Unions and Labor Relations. Co-author with Joe Berry of Power Despite Precarity: Strategies for the contingent faculty movement in higher education, forthcoming (August 2021) from Pluto Press.

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