How's that Working Out For You?

In order to translate the core assumptions of collective bargaining for Vietnamese undergraduates, I have had to turn my attention to the way democracy is actually practiced in our own country.

End of October — October 28, 2017

End of October

Last Saturday was my birthday: 75, according to Vietnamese counting, but 74 the way I count.  Joe with Ha Do’s help made reservations at a restaurant named Zenbay, not too far from TDT, and we invited some friends including An and Vy, John, Vinh and That from our faculty, Mai the Assistant Dean of Sociology, Joe Buckley, and Ha Do of course. The food was great and the setting gorgeous, up high on a terrace as the sun set. Many conversations took place at the table. Not everyone knew each other before the meal; that was in part the point.

all good

From the left: Vinh, John, Ha Do, Joe Buckley. Me at the bottom of the table. Down the right side: An, That, Mai, Joe, Vy.


This is our last week. The next entries will be a mix of big and little items. We have had a busy week.

Earl Silbar and Sue Schulz from Chicago were in town for 2 days as part of a 5-week tour through South Asia. We went over to their hotel- the Intercontinental –  Sunday morning to visit. Sue was going out on the walking tour to the Cathedral but Earl had been getting sicker and sicker day by day and stayed behind in their room. When we went up there, it didn’t take us long to persuade him to go to the French Hospital, where they took blood, did an x-ray and CT scan, discovered double pneumonia and checked in him.


They pumped him full of antibiotics and kept him until Thursday afternoon but is now better enough to be allowed to go join Sue in the new hotel in Koreatown (District 7, the Bien Vien which has several buildings, 280.000 per night) that the tour guide set up for them while the rest of the tour went on to Rangoon. Luckily they have plenty of insurance of various kinds. Thursday night he felt well enough to go out to dinner at the Beef Noodle place  Pho Kim Hung at 510 Nguyen Thi Thap.

Earl and Sue


The small fuzzy creature under the bushes is a puppy, one of a little of 5. Two are brown, two are black, and one is a very pretty with black and white spots. The mother is one of the skinny mean-looking yellow-brown dogs that roam the campus. They appear to have been born and actually live in a hole dug under the steps. The security guards feed them by sharing street food with them in styrofoam take-out containers. Any attempt to get near the puppies will send the mother dog into a mania of shrill barking. She barks at night, too — Maybe when someone goes their rounds. It’s often about 2 am and it can go on for an hour, making sleep impossible. No one is petting the puppies or training them. Now I see how the dogs on campus got the way they are; less domesticated than the cats that prowl the canteen under the tables, un-pattable, and not pretty. Feral, not friendly, not pets at all. But one of the men who staffs the management and maintenance of the dorm told me that the dogs “belong” to the President — the president of the University. “He likes dogs,” I was told. There are indeed more dogs here this year than in the past, probably a dozen that just wander around. Another person says that the President thinks the dogs keep us safe.



ILO Collaboration

Thursday morning there was a small ceremony in which Chung-Hee Lee, the ILO Country Director, signed a cooperation agreement with Ton Duc Thang, represented by Dr. Vo Hoang Duy, to cooperate on 1) Holding an industrial relations summer school for researchers and teachers every year, like the one this last summer that Greg Murray and Do Quynh Chi led; 2) Provide textbooks from ILO — written materials — to TDT Faculty of Labor Relations and Trade Union; 3) send professors and scholars from the ILO (recruited from Australia and other overseas places) to hold classes with faculty at TDT and 4) have internships at the ILO for PhD candidates from TDT who want to do research. Chung-Hee Lee noted that it was not common for the ILO to have this kind of collaborative relationship to do labor research in a country.

Dr. Vo asked if I had any comments on the agreement and I said that it was hopeful and possible and opened a good path in the right direction; also that in order to develop Vietnamese faculty researchers, the library had to provide access to international journals and the workload for faculty had to be lightened.

After taking a quick tour around the campus Dr. lee came back to the conference room where Daniel Helman, joe and I were waiting, and he asked us what exactly we were doing at TDT; we reported our teaching and research projects. He also asked whether there were a lot of other foreigners on campus — especially Europeans. In fact, there are — we have met a Ukranian, an Estonian, several Brits and Aussies, some from India, and today I met a man from Bulgaria. Lee made it very clear that the ILO objective is to develop Vietnamese researchers. He mentioned his years in China; over the course of 6 years the world of labor research there had gone from being in the same condition as Viet Nam now to being as good as anywhere,with its own good journals.

The challenge goes all the way down to simple data collection: there is no one single office in Viet Nam that collects and organizes labor statistics. It is all spread around the country in different offices where it is used at the functional level but is not ready to provide a basis for research. He noted that the ILO does not have the capacity to be VN’s BLS.


This is consistent with information from Katie Quan about her upcoming training at Hansae to follow up on what we did last month. She is going to do a train-the-trainer session (maybe more than one) and asked for names of Vietnamese people who might be good.

My last class in Globalization

last H class

Their final activity was responding to the question raised by the authors of the textbook, Katz, Kochan and Colvin: “Is there a role for national IR systems in a globalizing economy?”  They considered this question and three alternatives to national IR systems:  a global system run by a tri-partite organization like the ILO, a global system run by global unions or GUFS or world federations ot labor; or a global system run by multinational corporations.  Only three or four students took up the argument that multinational corporations were going to be running things, but they had a lot of evidence to support their points. They were clearly the voice of the realists. The discussion got quite heated and students were really debating back and forth, until the bell rang.


In every hallway there is someone sitting at a desk with a book in front of them. These are the people who can call someone to turn on or off the air conditioning, fix the microphone or the power point projector, supply chalk, and who also keep the books in which there is a record of the class.  I think the man in this picture is a professor.



Art and Design Department Display

ao dai

An AoDai with incredible embroidery.


A history of Asian women’s fashion. To the right, another display of the same for Europe.



Three large prints: Title, “Three Friends.” Very real-looking, faces that look real.

Joe’s last class, on Tuesday

Joe did a lecture with exercises using Andy Blunden’s Origins of Collective Decision Making. At the end, he gave the students a set of decisions and asked them what kind of process would be appropriate. They appeared to have got the idea!  The numbers represent groups.


It so happened that his last class was also a demonstration class, to demonstrate western teaching methods. The people in the back of the classroom are other lecturers. General response was “Good. ” They only saw the first half of the class, but they liked that he began the whole class with a group exercise and report from the floor. In a separate room during break, a real discussion about the challenge of working through translation developed.  I was happy to hear that their concerns about oversimplifying and losing valuable class time are the same as mine.



Last week when I went to the library to see the 6th floor, I offered to do an open mini-talk, kind of like a book club reading, because I wanted to demonstrate and also experience what it would be like to move a book from the special restricted collection out into the room where they get processed to go into the main collection. I suggested The Odyssey, and the young librarian Mr. Truong ran into me in the faculty dining room on Tuesday and reminded me, whereupon we set it up and he announced it and 20 plus people showed up.

Most of them were students from International Business, with one Electrical Engineering. We did the story of Odysseus and Polyphemos, the Cyclop. Mr. Truong found about 15 copies of the Odyssey scattered among the restricted book shelves. They read a lot of the story aloud, taking parts for Odysseus, Polyphemos, the Cyclop friends and the sailors who try to get Odyseus to control himself when they are trying to escape. I then narrated the final homecoming scene, making guess at the  number of axe heads through which the suitors had to shoot the arrow. They liked it.


And these books have now been liberated into the general collection.

Next up, Little Women? Or Capital? Classics, of course.

It was not possible to move from this reading exercise to the “Achilles in Vietnam” significance of the story — and that’s the Iliad, anyway.

Food packaging

Other end-of semester display, this one from the industrial design department, all about green packaging for Vietnamese food products. I do not know what would be inside these little green packages.  Most of the other displays are more self-evidence: coffee, cashews, etc.

food pkg

Le Ciel Rouge

Friday night we went over to Koreatown with That, met An there who had bought tickets ahead of time, and went to a movie. As usual, we were almost the only people in the theater. (Our most recent experience was at Blade Runner, perfectly horrible movie, at the Lotte Mart last week.)

The movie was Le Ciel Rouge (Red Sky) and it was new, French-made, in French with VN subtitles, about a love affair between a Viet Minh girl who has been captured and is being tortured by the French. Then a young red-haired French soldier releases her and then deserts from his unit, travels with her high into central and northern VN and eventually joins with the Viet Minh himself. He acts as bait to scouting parties of French soldiers by coming forward into open fields and announcing himself, which leads the French to come running out towards him, Whereupon they get shot down by the Viet Minh who have been  hiding. Eventually he himself is captured by the French. We expect him to be shot on the spot, but instead they tie him up and the last moment of the film shows the girl, Thi, who has managed to sneak past the guards. She is close by him, almost invisible in the high grass, and will untie him and then they will both escape. Terrific images of wild central and northern mountains.

movie pho.JPG

We went and had pho afterwards. That and Vinh said that the movie was a ‘Landscape movie” to show tourists about the landscape of Viet Nam and increase tourism, with love and war for a plot.  Some history, but it was French soldier, not a US soldier. Probably not much chance for a landscape movie about love during war to be made about a US deserter, as a way of showing off the stunning mountains of northern Viet Nam.

There is also a wonderful, chilling Vietnamese book with a title something like “Lost,” which is about a young North Vietnamese army soldier who, only a week or so into his duty, gets separated from his unit in the mountains and found by a montangnard clan. First they imprison him for a while, then slowly, as months pass, induct him into their way of life. He becomes one of them and is respected for being able to shoot accurately and kill jungle beasts that they can eat (wild boars, for example). Their “work” is to receive assignments to go down into valley villages and murder chieftains who have gone over to the enemy. With them all this time is a US soldier who is, compared to them, huge, and is treated as a beast of burden. His job is to carry heavy things, like the clan grandfather, from one camp to another. This soldier has some kind of illness, maybe tuberculosis, or maybe it’s a wound, which eventually kills him – they take his body to some place where it will be found and leave him there. Not a “landscape” story for US viewers.

HCMC Research Group Presentation

Joe presented on how higher ed unions in the US developed, beginning with the NEA as a management lobbying group in 1857 up through the founding of the AFT in 1916 and the way teacher unionism developed outside the law (and still does) — with no enabling legislation in state after state, as a result of teacher activism and behaving ‘like a union” even when there was no legally established path. The link to the present is the continuing degradation of higher education under the pressure of global neoliberalism, of which contingency is a symptom.

The announcement of this event went out about 10 days ago to the general research group. In other words, late, as far as I am concerned, because people plan weeks if not months in advance — or do they? But the day before the Research Group meeting we heard that a meeting had been called by the university  which all lecturers were required to attend. It was going to be a 2-day meeting. This meant That, for example, could not come.

However, Saturday morning in fact Vinh and Dean Hoa did come. We had a very good group that engaged in a good discussion afterwards.  Central ideas included how the NEA had to get the managers out of the union after the rise of the real union, the AFT, and how the 1960 NYC strike pushed forward the enabling legislation for CB.  Lots of talk about the VGC and what kinds of working conditions issues might be bargained for higher ed teachers in VN.  Vinh not only showed people where to sit and poured the tea, she also asked the three best questions: What states have the best CBA for higher education? Why don’t Harvard and Yale have unions (since we were talking about quality)? And would most adjuncts prefer flexibility or a full-time job?

A man who is a compliance officer from IKEA came and wants to join the group. There was also a man who teaches labor history at TDT, who doesn’t have much English, but was accompanied by a man who does, who is doing research on garbage workers in HCMC for a social welfare/community development group. He says that garbage workers are invisible, have no way to access social benefits, are below the radar of the labor code. I sent him a link to various Martin Luther King Jr videos about Memphis and the sanitation worker strike.

Sat 1

So tonight That will pick me up on her scooter and take me to some place where we will get our nails done.

Here is me, after a shampoo and facial, with pink finger and toenails, about to have my entire face shaved with a straight-edge razor. They use a razor instead of wax; wax is for men. My eyebrows got shaped, too. I am very happy with the way this turned out; I will go back to this salon, which is on Van Luong Street nearby, when we come back to Viet Nam.


VAn Luong Street is long and narrow; on Saturday night it is wide open with coffee shops, salons, music, many scooters zipping around like a country fairgrounds; a sense of Saturday night fun everywhere.

Tomorrow afternoon we fly back to Berkeley. We arrive Sunday night about 9 pm.

Last picture: the pianos “for use” on the bottom terraces of the TDT towers. Someone is always playing them. I have never seen one without someone playing it — at least not on this trip.

piano for use




The Library (2) — October 16, 2017

The Library (2)

Sitting in a “presentation room” in the new INSPIRE library, looking at the array of security tools attached to the door to the room, I thought:  These are not just barriers to keep people out and to limit or control access. They are also defensive, to keep something in, – to protect the integrity of some whole.

What is that “whole”?

library barriers

In a presentation room: One of those buttons opens the door from inside, so you can let someone in to join your group. But if you step outside yourself and the door closes (beeping all the while) and no one is in the room to let you back in, you will have to go find a librarian with a card to let you in. Another set of buttons is the climate control. Yet another probably has something to do with the password for the computer screen that is set up (and can’t be moved) directly in front of the white board – which you can’t write on until you get the markers from a librarian. Using the room means booking it in advance, and the door unlocks electronically so if you have booked for 10:30 and come at 10;29 the door will not open.

However, the fact is that despite a thousand features that cry “Hard to use!!! Do not even try!” this library is the most attractive place on campus.  It is jammed.Students love it. They are everywhere, using everything — the booths, the pillows, the computers, the elevators, the windows, the lockers in the basement, the front entrance with its grand staircase (see photos from August posts) which is the photo op venue of choice for graduating seniors. They pose for boyfriend/girlfriend photos next to it. They even seem to dress up a bit to go to to this library. And the cafeteria has the best food, albeit a bit more expensive, on campus, so there is always a line out the door. When we go to the library cafeteria, students offer us chairs at a shared table. Their manners are dressed up, too. I can’t help noticing that there are no other lecturers around, however. I wonder if there is some rule about this that we are unaware of?

That, come to think of it, is one of our basic questions about interactions in Viet Nam.

So what is going on?

I am used to city libraries that are quiet, so overstocked with books that some stay on trolleys forever, smell a little moldy, but whose main purpose, expressed in every physical design or staffing decision, is to get the books out the door. Share information! Give it to the curious reader, quick!! Even the 12-year old who wants to read a sexy novel — check the book out! Show them how to use the computer, forgive the overdue fine, manufacture the library replacement card in a matter of minutes (we have been here 10 weeks and do not have library cards, although we have been photographed and sent in our application). When I walk into the Berkeley Public Library, I see smiling faces like front desk employees at a 5-star hotel: How can I help you? How can I shovel information in your direction fast enough? Want to order something from somewhere else? We can get you things from all over the place!

When I am not treated like the user they have been waiting for all their lives — as at the UC Berkeley Library, where the librarian had to tell me that as an alum, but not a faculty member, I could not have online access to journals – I feel as if my patrimony has been swiped. But I go to the U of Illinois library, on line or by phone, and there I am again: welcome home! How can I help you? The message I get from even the physical design of a city library in the US expresses the mentality and vocational passion I associate with all librarians — the truth shall make you free, and here’s as much truth as I can pile onto you, as fast as possible.

In the libraries I am used to, the only security is the electronic eye that makes sure that any books you’ve got in your backpack as you leave have been checked out. There is no security on who comes in.

That was a digression. I have not even come to the point that I started out to make: that I realized that these barriers are not just to keep people out, but to keep something in.

So the real point is access, but not access to the building

Here is a place that is loaded with barriers to access, yet students are sucked toward it as if magnetized. They are not bothered by these barriers. I think that one of the things that draws them toward it is the sense that it is a safe place. That is rather like the whole campus; the fence around it, even along the canal, that opens only at the guard gates, where a friend of ours who tried to drive in with a motorcycle was stopped and had to call us on his cell phone.  And late at night (meaning 9 pm) when I walk back to our room from my Vietnamese class, there are girls out playing badminton or hackey-sac under the streetlights; no sense of any kind of threat or lurking danger.

Still asking the question about the relation of this library to the whole that it has been created to represent and defend: How about faculty? Faculty are under great pressure to publish. True, the only journals that “count’ are ISI/Scopus journals, which reminds me a bit of the U of Illinois. But the pressure on the university to demonstrate its success as a model (public but autonmous in the sense of fiscally independent but receiving large amounts of money such as for buildings from the government nonetheless) by ranking high on the basis of published articles is enormous, and this pressure gets passed down. Since current faculty are teaching huge workloads (four or five classes per semester, with 80-90 students per class) their chances of being able to get research done (much less learn how to do it) are faint, so the university hires academics from other universities on year-long contracts and then counts their publications as TDTs for the purpose of rising in the rankings. We have talked with some of these “foreign” faculty and they themselves are not confused about what is going on. On the other hand, our presence has a secondary effect — it interleaves the body of the teaching workforce with people who are in the habit of doing research and who generate discussions. Like the journal club, of which more later.

The library  (and the university) has not found a way to get around the high cost of “buying” access to journal articles. We told them about JSTOR and the “free article” function (thanks to Aron Swartz).

More about free access is at

But even that is limited. So researchers based here are pretty much boxed in.


Recently a set of rankings of universities was published in the University World News bulletin and TDT came up #2 in Viet Nam. We  learned when we were in Hanoi that the research group that did the rankings was funded by the World Bank and the United Nations. The study was carried out by some economists on the basis of an assignment from MOET (Ministry of Education and Training — note loss of accuracy due to translation problems here). Apparently all government agencies have their own research centers. These research centers were originally totally-government funded but now have to search for their own funding, which they get from places like the ILO, the UN, Oxfam, Scandinavian NGOs, etc. )

The reason for the survey which led to the rankings was, apparently (and we have heard this plenty of times to be sure that it is a generally held opinion) that the quality of teaching in Vietnamese higher education was “so bad.” The research, then, was intended to be positively provocative: to stimulate a discussion that would reflect on the problem. “We are from a command economy for 50 years. These universities are so safe, they do not work hard or learn new things.” The research on rankings was done entirely on the basis of  whatever was available on the web; no one came around to any of the universities and did observations, etc.

But what kind of information about a university is posted on the web?

Back to the tension between access and the powerful attraction of the library

I got irritated about having to put on the special shoes down in the basement, and showed my irritation to the young woman who came to let me in past the 2nd floor gates with her card. Realizing she did not understand my irritation, I backed off as fast as I could and asked her if she was a librarian. She said yes, although it  turned out she was a freshman studying business administration –but yes, she was a librarian, as if it were a vocation, loved the library, had worked here ever since it opened in August, and would like to spend her life here. She said,”When I read a book, my mind becomes empty!’ and the most beautiful smile spread over her face.

lbrary shoe crowd

These are students lined up to get keys for the lockers banked in another room in the basement, into which they can put their street shoes when they exchange them for the plastic shoes that they will wear when they enter the library.  When the library opened, there was a man at a desk who handed you the right size plastic shoe and you left your street shoes on the floor. Then there was no man, but there were plastic baskets labeled by shoe size, which soon did not contain shoes of the correct size. Then there were the banks of lockers, and people started leaving both their personal and their plastic shoes in the lockers. Then there was another desk, with special cubbyholes for the lecturers who are supposed to be able to get shoes faster. At this point I lost track (see line above). Now it appears that lecturers carry their plastic shoes around with them in a bag and switch them elsewhere.

I will represent this tension, the tension between access and protecting what is inside the library, with the following photo.  A tug of war, favorite game, just outside our dormitory room: the guy in the green shirt is I think the director of sports, and he is also quite a famous martial arts practitioner.


What the library keeps in

First, it keeps its own existence. It’s new, and a couple of months ago, it didn’t exist. There was a floor in one of the buildings that was called “the library” when we were here in 2015-16, but no one treated it like a library. This is completely different. Furthermore, the existence of this library is necessary, because you can’t have a TOP 100 university without a library, and it even has to support research because TOP 100 universities are research universities, so there has to be a public face of some sort that affirms a commitment to research even if the actual permanent faculty don’t have time to do research and the visiting faculty who are getting paid for publications are using the resources of other universities to do their work. But this library has to be here. A university can’t be a research university without a library. And it’s new. How many of the old city libraries in the US that i am comparing it with are less than 100 years old? And how about the Harvard library at 400 years, or even the Berkeley library at a a little over 100? They have hundreds of years — this library opened in August.

So, if we follow the logic of Viet Nam’s national ambition to produce its own well-educated, internationally respected college and university graduates, and TDT’s ambition to be a leader among Viet Nam’s universities, including reporting such high numbers of journals published by faculty in ISI/Scopus journals that it gets ranked as #2 in the nation, everything leads to the fact that there must be a library and it must be a research library.

So it has to exist, period. The status of the university depends on it.

So what would threaten its existence?

It’s not just that, as I was told, the presence of a library also attracts adults from the nearby neighborhood of wealthy Korean managers, who want to get in and use it. It is also that just about everything about the library — except the requirement that patrons of the library put on those shoes before entering — is politically sensitive, and therefore could threaten the existence of the library, or at least damage it seriously. Which is the explanation for the photo of the tug of war, above.

The Sixth Floor

I spent that first morning with the two young men librarians and then Joe and I went over there a second time to take them up on their invitation to visit the 6th floor. I have heard about the 6th floor. It is the place where 6,000 to 8,000 books – more than are downstairs – are stored. Certain people, like us, can get permission to take a book out from the 6th floor. But why are those books there?

We changed our shoes (the librarian had special pairs ready for us) and went up to the 6th floor in the elevator.

I assumed that they would be locked up because they are “politically sensitive” but that’s a gross simplification.  These are books that have been donated, in one way or another. Yes, one source of donation is from the big library that the Americans built in Saigon, filled with books that promoted, in all different kinds of ways, the American way of life and political system. I have heard this described as “The CIA library,” and also the US AID library, also known as the Abraham Lincoln Library. The story told to us by the librarians is that at the end of the war, many books were taken from the library and piled in the street and burned, but some were saved and these are the ones that were saved.

Quite a few of them are 1950s and 1960s liberal democracy books. Some are really good books:



Others are just anti-communist ranting. But they are all mixed in together. Looking at the Dewey Decimal numbers you can see that a lot of them are Social Science (300-399) and History and BIography (900-999), or at least that’s how they were classified back in the 1960s, and then there’s one in the picture that’s Religion (200-299). But this library does not use the Dewey Decimal system, as I mentioned earlier, and they shelve the English language books by title, not author. So the information provided by these numbers probably doesn’t make much difference.

shelf of books

Then there literally thousands of books that are donated by a US NGO that the librarians say is run by overseas Vietnamese (Viet-Khieu), who raise money to buy books and send them to the library. These are the ones that look new and don’t have Dewey Decimal System numbers on them. Among them, Clan of the Cave Bear.

books shelv

And the Republic of Plato, all right, and Showdown in Gucci Gulch, along with  Derek Bok’s Universities and the Marketplace.

new book donations

I got quite emotional when I saw Little Women, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, and Plato’s Republic on the shelf. The idea that those books would be sequestered for any reason started to get me upset. I began explaining what these books were and why they could not possibly be a problem.

But that was also when I understood that political sensitivity is just a small part of the problem. There are 15 library employees, total. Many of them are young students, or at most in their thirties. Only a few read English, and those are busy doing other things. They can’t spend all day sitting and reading Little Women to see what it’s about, much less try to figure out whether or not it would fit into a curriculum somewhere.  Someone has to actually look at these books one by one, find out something about them, and make a decision about releasing them into the general collection. Just because friendly people in the US sent them here doesn’t mean that they can  go right out into the general collection. That’s just not going to happen.

It is an enormous task, but progress is being made

Then we went across the hall to the room where books that have been approved are shelved and are one at a time getting entered into the database and given an electronic sticker so that they can be checked out. I am very happy to report that the shelves of  English language books that have been approved has a lot of books on it and they are good books; it’s as if someone who knew what they were doing had done the selection. For example, there were five or six side-by-side that have to do with African American history or literature — Zora Neale Hurston, for example, was there.

This is not a job that anyone else can do. A friendly American volunteer cannot spend a day on the 6th floor and come up with forty books that are “OK.” While I don’t know who is doing it, it’s getting done, and done right, but slowly.

Hansae news, Lan’s article, class projects — October 11, 2017

Hansae news, Lan’s article, class projects

In our Journal Club meeting on Monday, when we got back from Hanoi, Dean Hoa told us that his contact (the HR Manager named Thinh) at Hansae said that they enjoyed our session very much, that it was “exciting” and that they have suspended the class for a week in order to allow a new election to take place for union leadership.

We also heard from Jeffery Hermanson that he heard “from the company that they were happy with the training, and from the WRC that they are close to a final agreement.” Amazing.

My class

So now back to our classes. Joe and I each have only two classes left — we leave Viet Nam in a little over 2 weeks.

First, I distributed a photocopy of Lan’s article in the Global Labor University Column, in which she talks about the causes of wildcat strikes.  My point was first to draw the attention of students to the GLU as a place to get advanced education, and second to note that there is an internal discussion going on about the strategic direction of the VGCL.

In case this link doesn’t work, it was published on Oct 5, 2017, in the Global Labour Column, a newsletter of the Global Labour University.

I have been anxious about whether my students would be able to do the whole country comparison assignment, even though it’s not due yet, so I just put it up on the board and asked to see who could do it.


It says: Sit in your research groups; compare Viet Nam and the country you have chosen, by answering the following four questions: Who is “us”?  Who can act? Who judges? Who enforces?  That’s all they had to do today. But for their final submission, I want them to thread these questions through the work life history of the “old worker” they interviewed.

They went at it, drawing tables in their notebooks.

groups 2

group 1

Six groups were able to do the assignment: two had done the US, one did Finland, one India, one Bangladesh and one Cambodia. I cannot comment on whether what was posted is exactly correct, but that’s not as important as the fact that they were able to distinguish different answers to these fundamental questions, and that they could see that countries make their own IR systems out of their history, culture and economic situation both internally and externally.

“My” is US and Anh-Do is India.

Goup US2

goup 5 India

The one immediately below is US.

Group X

Group #1 did Finland.

Group Finland

Group #12 did Bangladesh.

Group 12 bang

And Group #9 did Cambodia.

group 9 Cambo

I then asked if anyone could give advice to other students about how to do this difficult assignment. One reason why it is difficult is because my four questions– “Who is us? Who can act? Who judges? Who enforces?” are not answered anywhere, at least no where that I have seen. They are essentially comparisons, from the workers point of view, and as my old boss at Illinois (Peter Feuille) once asked, “Who would pay for that kind of information?”  So you can’t get answers to these by hoping someone will tell them to you.

Huy stepped up and told people about a website called “” (let me check that — all I can find right now is, and then a young woman stepped up and told people about Labourstart.

speker 1 Huyspeaker 2

Then, after running through some slides on collective bargaining (we really need a whole class, a whole semester, on collective bargaining) we were going to talk about mediation — because we are following the Katz, Kochan and,Colvin textbook, and their experience is very heavy on mediation. However, mediation happens where conflict happens, and where conflict happens is different in different systems. So we had to go back to the slides from early in the course on theories that frame different IR systems and take another look at the way Katz, Kochan and Colvin describe the “unitary” and “conflict” theories.  The students had to create a new version of the “unitary” theory in order to make it fit with Viet Nam.  I asked them to do this by thinking about what things were like between 1975-1996, and then compare that with 1996 – today, when Viet Nam is open to FDI employers and investors who basically operate by the free market system.  Believe it or not, the students were able to do this — at least two of them. Huy was one and I’ll have to get the name of the other, a young woman, who knew exactly what she was talkingabout.

To sum it up: the mediation that Katz, Kochan and Colvin talk about takes place at what they refer to as the “functional level” of the IR system: where collective bargaining takes place. Mediators are often called in to resolve problems in collective bargaining that are related to communication, information, expectations, etc. In a country that does not have effective collective bargaining, mediation takes place at the workplace level (below the functional level) when specific problems cause a disruption of work and require prompt resolution, and as far as I an tell it is done with an ad hoc committee of local or provincial VGCL, employer, People’s Committee members, and worker leaders. Mediation also takes place at the top level, what the authors call “the strategic level,” where the VGCL interacts with the Party, the VCCI, MOLISA, and other top-tier entities.

I distributed a copy of the Accord that was prepared as a result of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, as an example of mediation at the strategic level. This was referred to in the Katz book but I wanted them to see the whole thing, especially the section on Governance and enforcement.





Hanoi, Oct 6,7,8 — October 8, 2017

Hanoi, Oct 6,7,8


The Women’s Museum had an exhibit of costumes worn by people practicing a kind of performance art in which they channel the spirits of aspects of the Mother Goddess, who (according to the caption on the exhibit) has four embodiments and a cast of characters including mandarins, princes, princesses and a domestic servant or page (his costume is the first on the left). People dress themselves in these costumes and perform dances that interpret the spirit, and they distribute “benefits’ which can be money, lottery tickets, fruit, etc. The audience gathers — according to a video of one such event, it’s a small room in a temple or even someone’s house — and it goes on for 6-8 hours, after which participants feel refreshed and relaxed. A small industry employing 3,000 people makes these costumes.

lake mtn.JPG

On Friday we went with the Hanoi Bike Collective folks out some 20-25 K to the NW of Hanoi, through the flower villages and a lot of other small towns, to the village of Chu Thay where there is the Thay pagoda, up on the steep mountain above this lake. The very top is crowned with terraces and small temples and carvings of dragons.

top of mtn

We used google maps “walking route” to set out going back to Hanoi, and found ourselves on streets like this one. That’s Dang, checking my bike. Pronounced Dzjang.


Google maps also put us onto streets like this one. I learned something about the Red River Delta mud: it is active mud that actually grabs you and sucks you down. This is Guil, owner of the bike shop, from Catalonia.


Rice noodles, drying.

rice noodles

More checking of bike performance issues, after we got past the mud.

pedals and gears

Rice, not ready to harvest yet.


Saturday afternoon, following up on an email from Chuck Searcy, we found our way to a cafe over near the Opera House. It’s called the Salon Van Hoa, Ca Phe Thu Bay, 3 Pho Ngo Quyen, Ly Thai, To Hanoi tel 098 535 0598.

Upstairs is a small meeting or recital room for cultural sharing. The participants were people interested in film generally, and included some well known directors. The man with the microphone, speaking, is Duc Hoa, who was the Vietnamese partner of Lynn Novick from the Ken Burns movie. Most of the people in the room had not seen the movie, although it is apparently available on Youtube.


Hanoi, October 3, 2017 — October 4, 2017

Hanoi, October 3, 2017

red union.JPG

“Red Union” or “Hop Cong Hoi Do, by Huynh Can FM, 1922-1987, painted in 1964, at the Hanoi Museum of Fine Art



One of the patriarchs. A whole room at the museum was dedicated to these slightly larger than life-size men. 

tranq cafe

Outside of the Tranquility Cafe. Note books on shelves inside. We were asked to sit outside because we were engaging in intense conversation with Daniel, and other people were reading and writing inside. Address is 5 Nguyen Quang Bich. There are two cafes by this name across the street from each other. The entry to the one we were in is below.

entr tranq

Below: View of Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Restored Sword, sort of an Arthurian legend but involving a turtle) from the restaurant level of the first hotel we stayed in, Bao Khanh, owned by the brother of the owners of the hotel we originally reserved, but which had “water problems.” We are now back in the original hotel, Family Holiday, at 34 Hanh Hanh; large white room with balcony, very nice. Streets  are blocked off for cars on weekends all the way around the Lake, so they are full of strolling families. The tiny streets right by our hotel seem to have less car traffic; lots of motorbikes. It’s a dense tourist area. Shops selling silk, massage, baskets, jewelry are side by side all the way up and down the street (this is not different from the broader neighborhood, however). In between each one, a restaurant, sometimes several stories. Also nail and hair salons.

View frm htl

Hoan Kiem Lake, evening.

Dusk refl

We do email and respond to correspondence in the mornings, after breakfast. Lots of prep going on for the Minimum Wage Workshop January 8-9-10. I have committed to study my VN vocabulary but am having a hard time concentrating on it. Waiting to hear the other shoe drop regarding Hansae: did the students contact Ana Jimenez? Did Jeffery Hermanson read my message to him? Did anyone read my blog post about the session? Etc.

Then go out;  an appointment, a museum. Later today we will find Ho Tay Lake and a bike collective where we can rent bikes and ride around the lake.

bike coll

We have signed up for a 60K ride on Friday, out through the Red River delta to a pagoda.