Getting Ready 14

Getting Ready 14

It’s time to turn and look at the US: Vietnam as a destination for US tourists, Vietnam as the place where Vietnam vets come from, and the US labor movement, which goes about organizing itself in a way that is very different from Vietnam.

When people hear that we are going to Vietnam, the first response is, “You’ll love it! They have great food!” Next they say that the landscape is beautiful. Third, it’s something about the people – very energetic and hardworking. Last, it’s the motor bikes. But overall, people talk about it as if it’s the vacation destination of choice, better than Greece or Italy.

The other response is about the war, which is what we call it – “the” war. Vietnam is the war that we lost, the harbringer of the war in Iraq, another disastrous mistake that we’re still fighting 12 years later, and similarly losing. The Vietnam war – at least among people Joe and I know – is where our contemporaries died or were wounded, physically and psychologically. It’s where the US committed atrocities. It’s where Brian King’s novel takes place.  It’s where vets go for “healing” journeys, some led by groups like Vietnam Veterans for Peace. When we tell some people that we’re going to Vietnam, they respond by saying, “I know someone who leads groups of vets over there,” or sometimes they mention that they did such a visit themselves.

So from over here, Vietnam is either a place where you get great food.  Our history of Vietnam is reduced to one event: the Americans went there and fought a war, and lost. It’s where you go to deal with PTSD.

The Vietnamese point of view, so I am being told, is that they fought the Chinese for 1000 years, the French for 50, and us for 15 or 20, depending on when you start counting, and then had two more wars after we left. So what they call “the American war” is not the major national trauma for them that it is for us. For them, it’s just another war, and they won. For us, it’s still a turning point when we shifted from being the good guys who saved Europe to the superpower that bombed villages and didn’t win any hearts and minds that way, a lesson we didn’t learn.

And to this country we are supposed to bring what we know about how labor struggles with capital in the US. So we need to make sure we know what we’re talking about when we talk about our industrial relations system.

Earlier, I wrote that what our labor law gives us is basically permission to fight, a ticket to the struggle. It says, “If you can organize yourselves into a union, management has to bargain with you.” That’s really the essence of what we get, as far as the Wagner Act goes. By organize, it means self-organize. Individual people have to step up and say, “Yes, I’m ready.” Self-organization is what gives a union legitimacy.

The big news here is the “you can organize yourselves” part. It’s bottom up. This is fundamental for us. That’s what gives a union its power, both legally and in the eyes of the members. Individuals hand over a piece of their power as individuals when they willingly join into the concerted activity of the union. It’s an exercise in freedom of association. It is a collective right that is earned by a voluntary commitment from each and every individual. This is the case even in the current right-to-work debate. Even if you’re hired into a plant where there has been a union for three generations, and you were told you had to sign a card and pay dues, you’re just inheriting the voluntary commitment of someone who came before you. Somewhere, back in the recent or distant past of every union, everyone who joined did so by saying, “Ok, me too, I’ll sign up.” They took the risk, they won your right to belong. A generation later you find people paying dues and wondering how that happened, but back in the history of any union, someone said “Yes” and made it possible for today’s worker to bargain.

Next, the underlying assumption is that when labor and management meet to bargain, they meet as equals. Equally legitimate — unions are legal, legitimate parts of the economic infrastructure, just as businesses are. This is an assumption that has only the most shadowy basis in reality.

So that’s how the fight gets a permit to happen. But the fighting takes place in an arena that is set about with innumerable constraints and tricky snags. Once you step away from the table, it’s all politics. For example, the National Labor Relations Board is supposed to have five members. They are appointed. By whom? The President, who can be a Republican or a Democrat. They have to be approved – by Congress, which can be Republican or Democrat. Sometimes Congress balks at approving a President’s appointee and this goes on for years, and the NLRB which should have five members staggers along with only 3 or even 2. The caseload backs up and things that should have been resolved in a month take years, and people start complaining that the whole system is dysfunctional and unions are bad. Or a case gets decided by the NLRB and then the attorneys decide to appeal it into the court system and it ends up at the Supreme Court, which is also appointed by the President and approved by Congress, and right now has such a right-wing slant to its decisions that unions down at the grass roots level are reluctant to send complaints to the regional Labor Boards because they may start working their way up the appeals chain and end up at the right-wing Supreme Court, which we assume is waiting hungrily for cases to show up on their docket that they can use to whup the life out of unions for once and for all.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Ever since Taft-Hartley in 1948, the different barriers that workers’ representatives have to jump over in order to exercise our right to bargain have increased in number and severity.

For example: how effective you are at the bargaining table depends on how strong you are on the ground. The simplest, clearest expression of the power of labor is the threat of workers to stop working. It’s call “withdrawing your labor.” You’d think this was a right, wouldn’t you? After all, slavery – where you have no right to quit – was abolished by the 14th amendment to the Constitution. But many, many laws have only one purpose: to undercut labor’s strength on the ground. So they attack your right to quit — collectively, at least. Many labor laws, especially public sector laws, prohibit striking. Under the 1967 Taylor Law, which gave public sector workers in New York the right to organize, strikes could be punished by fines and jail time. In 2006, the NY transit workers union, TWU Local 100, went on strike for two days when contract negotiations broke down. The union was fined $2,500,000. The president of the union, Roger Toussaint, spent 10 days in jail.

If we are going to contribute something useful to the implementation of an industrial relations regime in Vietnam that can fight back against the abuses of workers by DFI companies, we need to be able to point to what parts of the US industrial relations system make it extremely difficult for unions and management to meet as equals at the bargaining table, in what ways the fight is fixed.

We should do a review of EFCA, the Employee Free Choice Act, which seemed to have a chance of passing early in the Obama Presidency, before he directed all his strategies toward healthcare. We should also take another look at James Pope’s work for the Labor Party, “Towards a new Labor Law.” This is a pdf so the link many not work; paste it into your browser and it will come up.

http://www.thelaborparty.org/laborlaw.pdf

This week the cover of the NYTimes magazine illustrated a pretty good article about the US labor movement. It explained what Right to Work means, and what Prevailing Wage. It even got the racist origins of RTW into the story. The photos are hyper-romantic building trades images, big strong tired men in a trailer, plus the occupation of the Capitol building in Wisconsin. It was obviously written by someone sympathetic to organized labor and its history, and respectful to workers. But writing carefully, to be palatable to educated people who somehow manage to function in society without understanding RTW. Deep in my heart I am asking, “Do the kind of people who read the NYTimes magazine really need to have this stuff explained to them?” Unfortunately, yes.

Progress today: had a session with James Tucker to prepare our computers to the Asian environment. Added a pop-up blocker called Ghostery and an anti-virus program called Sophos. We’ll do VPN’s next, which will allow us to appear to be in the US and watch Netflix.

Tomorrow we’ll go into SF to the Vietnamese consulate and see about getting visas.

Getting Ready 13

Getting ready 13

I have an appointment for a phone conversation with Angie Ngoc Tran who teaches at CSU Monterey Bay. She emailed me a link this interview, from July 2014. In the interview, she describes a day when young men riding motorbikes, with flags, incited riots at factories in industrial zones, paid workers to walk out, then later came back to damage and burn factories. Over 340 companies were affected.

I will quote from the interview, and give the link to it below.

Tran says, “The lack of effective protest leadership from the one-and-only labor union (the Vietnamese General Confederation of Labor) can lend some support to the hypothesis that workers may have found these “underground leaders” to be more effective in carrying out their anger and frustration, either directly at their own factories or capitalists in general.”

http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/newmandala/2014/07/29/interview-with-angie-ngoc-tran/

She raises the question of who benefits from these strikes. The workers and the government of Vietnam clearly do not benefit from them, she says. She notes that since the instability of Vietnam as a site for industrial development makes China look better, some people have suggested that the instigators are Chinese. She also notes that a pro-democracy group outside Vietnam might be involved.

This paragraph gives me some ideas about what we should be thinking about when we design our classes:

The 2012 Trade Unions Law has offered a way to empower the workers. Here is an interesting recent union development: Up to now, most strikes took place in factories that are unionized, but ironically they are considered “wildcat” because they are not led by the VGCL. Instead, they were led by workers, most of whom stay underground to prevent being caught by the state and management. Acknowledging the VGCL’s own weakness and the power of worker-led strikes, they have been using the 2012 Trade Unions Law (Stipulation No. 5), which permits workers to initiate and form the enterprise-level union by themselves (still under the general auspice of the VGCL) instead of waiting for the district or provincial level union officials to approach management to organise at that factory. The VGCL officials hope that this will bring out grassroots leaders from among the workers themselves. Emerging from the same condition of their fellow workers and respected by them, these leaders should be able to lead the strikes when needed. This worker empowerment at the grassroots level is a welcome trend to assist with the collective bargaining process. It would be interesting to monitor the outcomes of this initiative to facilitate and empower labour organising.

Here at the end of her article she actually says it. I guess we are “experienced unionists,” which is fact we actually are.

Second, given the VGCL’s initiative to empower grassroots workers to form enterprise-level unions, the international labour movement can send experienced unionists to Vietnam to share information and experiences, and to train Vietnamese union officials in bargaining skills, especially in collective bargaining agreements. The VGCL officials have openly expressed the need to improve their technical bargaining skills. I do think that they need to understand how the global supply chain works, and the relationships between Tier 1 and Tier 2 capitalists in order to effectively negotiate with them for livable salaries – not minimum wage – and other benefits (social, health, unemployment insurance) for workers. Moreover, global unionists/labour NGOs can enlighten the VGCL about the popular role of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative in the global economy, how to demand MNCs (Tier 1 and Tier 2) to genuinely implement CSR’s codes of conduct (or labour standards) – not paying lip service to appease final consumers – and how to directly appeal to final consumers/end users in developed countries, to improve both working and living conditions of Vietnamese workers.

 

So, keeping an eye on what we are supposed to be doing, maybe the goal is to design a degree program that:

  1. Is appropriate, in terms of teaching and learning, for undergraduates at TDT University;
  1. Provides a full understanding of the actual social relations of work in Vietnam;
  1. Enables students to help build the infrastructure of a stable system of socialist industrial relations in Vietnam;
  1. Prepares students to play an active role in implementing this system of industrial relations;
  1. Enables students to appreciate their roles in the context of the history of labor in Vietnam and the role of Vietnam in the world.

Yesterday (June 12), Gary Gaines, retired Steelworker in Granite City, IL and longtime friend, sent me this:

http://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/VietnamLetter.pdf

It’s a letter addressed to the US Congress, asking that the US not grant fast-track authority to Obama to move ahead with the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership, a huge free trade bill) without addressing labor rights in Vietnam. The three signers to this letter (self-described as representatives of three Vietnam civil society organizations) ask Congress to do the following:

Members of the U.S. Congress who wish to assist us in ending Vietnam’s systematic labor rights violations should NOT grant Fast Track authority for the TPP until the Vietnamese government has reversed its ban on independent labor unions; has ended widespread workplace abuse and unsafe working conditions; has increased our abysmal wages; has halted its repression of workers and organizers who are trying to promote basic labor rights; and has released all labor rights activists from prison who have been convicted for simply speaking up for workers.

It’s a three-page letter. At the bottom it refers us to Viet Labor and a US based NGO organization, Educating for Justice.

http://laodongviet.org/2015/04/05/viet-labor-statement-on-the-workers-strike-at-pou-yuen/

So today we hear that Congress did refuse fast track authority to Obama. Not sure if anything about Vietnamese workers was actually a factor. Most people I know think of TPP as just another NAFTA, with the additional feature of being secret.

 

Getting Ready (12)

On Jun 4, 2015, at 3:38 PM, Hollis Stewart wrote:

Helena,

I have started reading your blog and will respond to the observations and questions that you present.  Just below is the address for the blog that Leanna and I published while we were in Vietnam.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we did in preparing it.  We did not write too much about the classroom experience but more about our general experience.

One quick thought.  While in Viet Nam we talked here and there about the strikes that are referred to as “wildcat” strikes and my take is that yes there is some lack of trust or adherence to the law and the VGCL but on the other hand I saw it as important that working people at the local level would take things into their own hands and call out a strike and stay with it until they won.  And from what we heard as well as readings it seems as though the strikes are quite effective because the government and the party as well as the VGCL are committed to the working class so when they intervene the workers almost always win.

This fact is not liked by the foreign investment corporations, which would like to put down the strikers.  Often strikes are about employers mistreating employees, disrespecting them, which is a serious offense to the Vietnamese workers who view their nation as an extension of themselves and their sacrifice in the national war of liberation against colonialism, not paying their social security taxes or in other ways ignoring the National Labor law and/or the National Labor Code; and try to hike profits by not being honest.  Part of the work at TDT by their permanent home staff is educating the workers of Viet Nam to form unions, use their unions and hopefully resolve issues without strikes since the nation is aiming for harmony, stability, and progress.

Part of the problem is that foreign investment businesses are still sort of new and a growing part of the economy and dealing with them is a somewhat new experience for the VGCL and the union movement.  The present union movement got going with the Red Union in about 1929/30 and was part of the liberation experience and after the triumph of the revolution the main economic structure was the State Owned Enterprise and they are still a large part of the economy — and the union within the SOE’s was and is different.

Just so you know, Leanna may have a much different view on all this and each viewpoint is important since we are dealing with human society and we all know how variable that is in the real world.

http://ourvietnamexperience.blogspot.com/

Getting Ready (11)

Getting Ready (11)

The conference to which so many representatives of so many nations came was in 1965. Joe points out that many of the countries that sent delegates were countries that were still under colonial control. He also tells me that it would have been illegal to bring this book into the US at that time. Published in Hanoi, someone spent a lot of effort translating it into good English. Someone must have smuggled it in and donated it to a library.

Then in 1966, here comes a speech by Le Duan, First Secretary of the Workers’ Party Central Committee, The Role of the Working Class and Tasks of the Trade Union at the Present Stage. It’s published as a pamphlet by Foreign Language Press, Hanoi. The copy I got came from Cal State Long Beach. Yellow paper, soft gray cover, about 60 pages, two rusty staples in the middle. Also translated into good English.

Reading this speech, I think I am beginning to understand what we’re supposed to be doing. But what does it mean that my question is being answered directly in a speech that was given 50 years ago?

Let me repeat my question. In my first Skype conversation with Dean Hoa and Ms. Vinh, I asked them: What did they want us to teach the students?

Dean Hoa gave me an answer that I could not make sense of. This is what he said – isn’t an exact quote, because I wasn’t able to take notes: “Teach them to work hard, to produce more, to do sports, to be healthy, to want education.”

I was completely unprepared for this. This is definitely not what labor educators do in the US. Instead of teaching workers to work hard, we teach them (or help them figure out how to) lower stress, slow down, work at a sustainable pace that won’t cause injuries—“work safe,” even, in the sense of following all the rules, including contradictory and unreasonable rules, as a way of putting pressure on employers. Also, “producing more” is the business of management, not workers, and certainly not the union. “Business” is used intentionally, here, since although how to produce more and better is within the capacity of workers and the union, you wouldn’t say it was their “business.” Making a living, earning wages, is the business of the workers.

In a later phone call, I asked Leanna and Hollis what Dean Hoa could possibly have meant. She said (again not an exact quote): “Well, it’s just what you’d want of a committed union member, isn’t it? And it’s a holistic view of a person, it’s about their whole life, not just one part.”

OK, she’s right about that.

But now listen to the answer to my question given by Le Duan in 1966. This is from the second part of this pamphlet, “Tasks of the Trade Unions at the Present Stage of the Three Revolutions.” The three revolutions are revolutions in production, technology, and ideology or culture.

Earlier he has explained that Vietnam is moving from a peasant economy straight into a socialist economy, without passing though capitalism. This means they have no big industry. Western countries that moved from peasant economies into capitalism built big industries, which then could be socialized. (I think he means Western Europe.) A country going straight from a peasant economy to a socialist economy has “a tremendously and extremely difficult and arduous task. For bypassing the stage of capitalist development, and modern industry being almost non-existent, we have to build the material and technical bases of socialist from scrap (sic – the translator meant ‘scratch’, but ‘scrap’ makes sense in a way.) In addition, though he hardly mentions it, it’s a country divided, invaded, and at war.

I’m going to go slowly, and quote a lot, starting on page 35:

In developed capitalist countries, class struggle between the working class and bourgeoisie is extremely arduous and sharp in this domain.

My comment: Just walking down the street in the US or shopping in a supermarket, you might not notice “arduous and sharp” class struggle. You will notice class difference, and all the indications of severe inequality, especially if you look in the shopping carts of people at the grocery store, but you won’t actually see class struggle. You’ll see people hurrying, or pulling their kids by the hand, or talking on their cell phones. But in any given workplace, unless there is a strong union that has won a decent contract and enforces it, you notice class struggle. It is indeed arduous and sharp. Of course you have to have the eyes to see it. You can spend the night in a hotel and walk past the woman who will clean your room, and not see it. The person who sees it most clearly is the steward or the rep, the person who workers come to if they have a problem. But I could write a book about this (I did, actually).

Continuing, he says that class struggle in Vietnam is not arduous and sharp. Instead, the workers are the masters:

 

Such, however, is not the case in our country….The fundamental and immediate target in the revolution in relations of production is to establish collective ownership of the means of production by the toiling people, that is, to make them masters in labour, production and distribution (36-37).

As masters, they have responsibility beyond negotiating the conditions of production:

..trade unions, while performing their function, take part in factory management as a workers’ mass organization, that of toiling people masters of their enterprises…The trade unions must direct their activities toward resolving difficulties in production, consolidating and intensifying labour discipline, heightening the workers’ cultural and technical standards and guaranteeing adequate working and living conditions to the workers and employees (38).

Yes, there are still managers and directors at the factory. Those roles exist and someone has to do them. But the workers, not the managers, are the masters of the enterprises.

Le Duan isn’t just talking about the workplace, either. He is talking about the whole life of a whole person. I think Dean Hoa means this when he says: ““Teach them to work hard, to produce more, to do sports, to be healthy, to want education.” Le Duan makes the trade unions responsible for getting people to raise vegetables and care for war victims:

 

It is the obligation of the State and all organs of economic management to take care of the workers’ and employees’ life; nevertheless, the trade unions also bear responsibility for it…In this urgent situation of the fighting and production the trade-unions must, on the one hand, impart to the workers and employees the spirit of self-reliance, of overcoming all hardships and difficulties in the struggle against US aggression, for national salvation, and on the other hand adequately care for their living and working conditions, while paying particular attention to air defense in order to safeguard their lives and carry out prophylactic hygiene and treatment of disease. We are not allowed to allege difficulties for overlooking all this. Many factories are credited with experiences for how to organize for improving the employees’ living conditions. They encourage them to grow vegetables and practice animal husbandry to meet part of their needs in foodstuff, they ameliorate board and lodging and study for them, and to a certain extent for their children (41)

 

…Yet, an urgent problem to which the trade unions and cooperatives must pay attention to is to give help to large families and war victims, not to let children lack food and warm clothes in winter, not to let the war victims and disabled and old-aged people live in too straitened circumstances. (41)

 

Club activities in factories must be made better, libraries set up and books and periodicals placed at the disposal of the workers so that they may acquire more knowledge (45).

 

The revolution aims at forming new men, men of the socialist society, masters of their own self, of society and nature, men, who, with zest, take part in production, in scientific and technological work, in literary and artistic activities, so as to bring about a new relationship between man and man in accordance with the principle “each for all and all for each..(47)

 

He warns against “vices incompatible with proletarian ethics, such as the penchant to do what one pleases, the lack of discipline and of concern for the requirement of one’s collective, inertness and conservatism, waste and corruption” (51). He quotes Lenin, says that trade union cadre must live and work with the workers, and notes the role of women both as workers and in combat. He mentions the “old cadre,” the many “veterans who under the colonial rule, fought for a wage-rise of a few cents.” This is the experience I am familiar with. “Fighting for a wage-rise of a few cents” is how OurWalMart made WalMart promise (have they actually done it?) to raise their minimum wage to $9 an hour, less than the cost of a sandwich.

I am looking in this speech for anything that could indicate how Le Duan would have felt about a day when state owned enterprises were being privatized through “equitization” plans, and direct foreign investment brought South Korean and Taiwanese factories, where the workers are not the masters in any way, shape or form, to Vietnam. Did he think that the transformation of a peasant economy to a socialist economy could be permanent, or even stable? Did he forsee a time when the experience of the veterans who fought for a few cents would be needed again?

At least theoretically, he has a place for such possibilities. On page 12 he says something that caught my eye:

Classes appear then disappear and so does class struggle; they all are linked to the existence and transformation of given economic bases. (12)

Hmmm. So it’s possible that under socialism, as it was developing in Vietnam in the 1960s and for perhaps a decade thereafter, the working class really was the master of the economy. Under these conditions, class struggle, even in factories, disappeared. But then Vietnam, needing currency to function in the increasingly free market neoliberal global economy – especially after 1989, with the fall of the Soviet Union and the loss of their support – began to open to foreign investment. And class struggle re-appeared.

So classes “appear then disappear”? I think we can look at our own case. In the US, the working class “disappeared” the 1950s and 1960s, the period of time when inequality in the US was lowest. This was the period that got a lot of people thinking that the invisible hand of the marketplace in a capitalist economy would ultimately produce fair and relatively equal distribution of wealth. It became the basis of neoclassical economics. The “working class,” both an economic and a cultural phenomenon, was replaced by “the middle class,” inequality decreased, and class struggle went into hiding. The number of strikes dropped year by year and union membership declined. Unions were called “irrelevant.” Human Resources took care of everything.

But after a while (about 1975 or 1980) people started to notice inequality rising and began to complain. Not very loudly, yet. The loudest side of the class struggle was the “greed is good” party. Thomas Piketty wrote about all this. But the tide turned. Now it’s never a day without some news item about the 1%. Class struggle is happening. Unfortunately, it’s usually expressed as “save the middle class!” Even the AFL CIO expresses it that way. But demonstrations of all kinds, OCCUPY, StrikeDebt, campaigns like OurWalmart and the Fight for $15, the contingent or “excluded” worker movement, all have had an impact. Berkeley and San Francisco have passed higher minimum wage laws and little Emeryville, which is basically a shopping center plus Pixar plus some condos, just passed the highest minimum wage in the US, nearly $16 per hour. Also busy in the class struggle is Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, along with many of his buddies in the Republican party.

I am starting to understand enough about what this is all about so that I can think about my class.

Getting Ready (10)

Getting Ready (10)

Four items have come in from my request on the UALE (United Association for Labor Education) listserve for examples of undergraduate statistics, probability and math courses or syllabi. An exercise from Toby Higbie at UCLA about big data where he asks them to visualize the history of the labor movement, one with puns and problem-solving games from Eric Thor at DePaul; a course from June Lapidus at Roosevelt, and one from Julie Nelson at U Mass Boston, which uses Statistics for Dummies as a text. A lot of help very fast! And quite a few other messages flashing around people’s distribution lists. I am sending them to Dean Hoa and Ms Vinh today.

In the set of books that I picked up from the Berkeley Public Library was one from 1965, a report of the Second Conference of the International Trade Union Committee for Solidarity with the Workers and People of Vietnam Against the US Imperialist Aggressors. Published by the Vietnam Federation of Trade Unions, Hanoi. This one was linked from Cal State Hayward. There are no stamps at all on the Date Due slip, but another stamp, “Reviewed and retained,” is from 2004; apparently someone (initials “JF”) decided not to dump this one.

There is a series of photos at the beginning of the book, showing the building where the conference took place, a festive dinner reception with dignitaries, the main panel of speakers (the Presidium), and many individual delegations: South Vietnam, Ghana, Austria, England, Japan, Cambodia, Soviet Union, China, and many others. The last photo is in a vast stadium with bleachers full of people and thousands of people, maybe soldiers and maybe high school students including girls, standing at attention. And one other photo: members of the Presidium standing to sing Solidarity, holding hands above their heads just the way we do it.

Renato Bitossi, the President of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), attended and spoke.

The various chapters are greetings from various trade union organizations from at least 45 countries or groups of countries (like “the Japanese Preparatory Committee for Afro-Asian Worker’s Conference”). The only US delegate is Anna Louise Strong, who is identified as “Veteran member of the Seattle Central Labour Council.” She must have been 70 years old. Her archive is at https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/strong-anna-louise/

On page 207 is a chapter titled “Message to the American Workers and People.” It’s pretty simple. Respect the Geneva Agreements, end air raids and the naval blockade, respect self-determination of the people of South Vietnam, recognize the South Vietnam National Front and allow the two zones to achieve “peaceful reunification of their country without any foreign interference.”

Part of the Message is three challenges that would have been heard and probably guided many anti-war activists of my generation. They were: One, condemn the aggressive policy of the U.S. Government in Vietnam and use every possible means to give the American people better understanding of the truth about the just war now being waged by the Vietnamese people. Two, refuse to be drafted for service in Vietnam and to take part in weapons research, the manufacture and the transport of arms and war materials bound for Vietnam; and three, give every possible moral and material support to the Vietnamese people.

Well, this actually sounds like what a lot of people did. At least people I knew. When I look back on the anti-war actions of my generation, I see people holding teach-ins, sit-ins, striking at various campuses, holding demonstrations, pouring blood into file cabinets, blocking traffic. When it was about teaching, it was talking, writing, speaking out, holding conferences. Then there were attempts to block anything that would strengthen the military. The demonstration at the Oakland draft induction center was part of that. I participated in that while I was at Stanford. Bruce Franklin was teaching a course in Melville which took a side trip into guerilla theater, and our guerilla theater group assignment was to go up to Oakland and do it in the street, which turned out to mean using unlocked cars to block streets. Many people did not lock their cars in those days. So I’d get in the driver’s seat and Larry Arnstein and Henry Bean (I’m pretty sure Henry was part of this) would push the car out into the middle of the intersection and then we’d get out beer can openers and deflate the tires, all the while keeping our eyes open for the phalanx of blue uniforms approaching from not very far away. Remembering this, I can’t help remarking that the police did not shoot us. They didn’t even run toward us. They marched toward us at a speed that allowed us to get the tires flat and then stand up and run away and disappear in the crowd. If this was Fergeson, or if this was today, actually, they would have shot us. What’s different? Well, we were white, but that isn’t the whole story. I don’t think the police were so much into shooting people in those days. Also, the mood of the country was swinging very much toward the anti-war movement.

Joe has a story to tell about draft induction, but I’ll let him tell it.

The third challenge of the Message to the American Workers and People, moral and material support to the Vietnamese people … well, moral support is one thing. Material support? The delegates who gave speeches at the 1965 conference often mentioned sending medicine: “The 1963, the Mongolian Trade Unions sent 170,000 tugriks worth of medicine to help the South Vietnamese people.” I don’t actually remember doing that.

A close friend who asked to be called “anonymous” said I could post this description of Ho Chi Minh City as she saw it in February 2013, a year and a half ago. I add this to make clearer the contrast between Vietnam in 1965 (the year I graduated from college) and now, 50 years later, which is relevant to my main question, “What do we have to teach them that they need to know?”

 

Throngs of young people and families on motorbikes is my first and sustained vision of the former Saigon. There is a continuous stream of motorbikes, an un-ending onslaught of them. You haven’t lived until you’ve almost died crossing the streets there.  It brings the present moment into full bloom as you either a) pretend to ignore the traffic or b) walk with face turned to the traffic and look straight into the eyes of the drivers while praying to hold the bikes back with a stiff arm.

 

You will witness as many as four or five people on one of these bikes — maybe Mom in the driver’s seat and her sister in the rear with at least one sleeping toddler. You will see thousands wearing masks to prevent the icky pollution from accumulating in the lungs. You’ll see them talking on their iPhone 5s and laughing as they motor on to their destinations.

 

Upwardly mobile, the youthful Vietnamese are looking for their share of the pie.

Getting Ready (9)

Getting Ready (9)

We went to Iowa, Des Moines, visiting Joe’s brother Jan and his wife Janice. Everything was green with little breezes tickling the leaves of the giant burr oaks. People ask, “How are things in California?” They’ve read about the drought.

We went to Joe’s reunion at Grennell. When we told people about going to Vietnam in August the responses rang from “You’ll love it,” to “Wow.” His class at Grennell had a group of anti-war leftists, some of whom got tossed out or left college early; now they are welcomed back as notables. He was one of these, treasurer of the underground newspaper, The Pterodactyl, and when he left Grennell after 2 years he became an organizer (regional traveler) for SDS and was deep into the civil rights and anti-war movement. About a dozen of this group came back to the reunion, some of whom hadn’t seen each other for thirty or forty years. Many intense conversations took place, while eating excellent food and sitting in a sunlit, high-roofed dining hall.

Joe’s cousin Neal said “Good luck in Vietnam.”

Katie Quan copied us on this article by Angie Tran:

http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/newmandala/2015/04/30/small-victory-systemic-problems/

I’ve just read Mike Yates’ article in Monthly Review in which he talks about war as a factory, the product of which is dead bodies, which get sold to the government to draw down more money for the military and their buddies. He tells the story of the Vietnam war as the story of the production of dead bodies, both Vietnamese and US, and the soldiers of factory workers driven by productivity goals. Reminds me of Brian King’s novel, So Long, Vietnam:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjWsrSXqquk

One night I watched broadcast TV with Janice. There was a documentary film done by a Canadian called The Last Train Home. Extended scenes of a mother, father and teenage daughter in China trying to get onto the train to go home to their village for the holidays. Horrifying.

http://www.eyesteelfilm.com/lasttrainhome

In the meantime, we are trying to contribute to the design of the labor program at Ton Duc Thang, at the request of Dean Hoa. This is a very immediate time-sensitive problem that is closely related to my immediate question, which is “What are we going to teach?” I’ve contacted Lowell Turner at Cornell ILR, Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld at Illinois SLER, Mark Anner at Penn State Global Labor University, and they have all sent forward syllabi. But individual syllabi don’t answer the question, “What do these students need in order to learn how to do what is required of them?” Except for Lowell Turner’s classes, these are all MA programs, not BA/BS programs.

Dean Hoa also asked for information about kinds of math, probability and statistics knowledge that students should have. I have sent out an email to the UALE Listserve asking for help on this and have so far received some promises, but only one actual example of a class session, from Toby Higbie at UCLA – an exercise about visualizing big data that looks very good and different.

A BA is made of 120 units or credits. A three-credit (means pretty much the same as credit) is supposed to be 3 hours per week in class for 15 weeks, or 45 hours, with 1-2 hours outside class for every hour in class (or 90 hours per semester). An undergraduate major is generally 30 units and a minor is 15-20. Apparently, students at Ton Duc Thang can major in labor or industrial relations (I’m not exactly sure what their name for it translates as, since these are different in the US). That means they can have general education classes in other subjects, which can be recommended or required for the major (such as statistics).

When we got back from Iowa we stopped at the Berkeley Public Library, on the way home from the airport, and picked up a bunch of books I had ordered. One of them is Industrial Reform in Socialist Countries, edited by Ian Jeffries at the Department of Economics University of Swansea, published in 1992 by Edward Elgar Press. This just goes boom-boom-boom through a whole set of socialist countries – Albania, Hungary, China, Mongolia, Poland, Vietnam, thirteen in all – and describes the trajectory in each toward increasing openness to capitalism between about 1960 and 1992, step by step. This is full of good information for me. I never really understood what the steps would look like. You hear about what happened with the “shock treatment” approach, but what is the alternative to it?

Here are some ways in which a centralized planned economy can be step-by-step transformed into a market economy.

In the centralized planned economy, input of resources and output of commodities are balanced and determined in advance, at the top level. What is to be produced is fixed in advance. Prices are fixed in advance. Multiple indicators, in addition to just quantity, are established as targets. Meeting the target is rewarded, falling short is punished, but selling excess product is prohibited. One step away from this is to allow an enterprise to sell overproduction on the market, perhaps at market prices, and keep some percent of the revenue. Another step away is to allow the enterprise to come up with different products. Another would be for the enterprise to set the prices for its products. Allowing an enterprise to lay off workers would be another step away from the Soviet-style planned economy.

In the private sector, small agriculture, handicrafts and personal services would be allowed but the enterprise could only employ family members. A step away would be to allow 5 or 10 actual employees. Something like this was happening with I was in Cuba in 1999, when they began allowing artisans to sell from booths in the marketplace.

In the centralized economy, enterprises were funded by the state. One step away from this would be funding from banks.

In a centralized economy, the state would own all means of production. One step away from this would be to return some enterprises to “original owners” (this is what Jeffries says, and I assume that since he’s writing in 1990 he’s talking about factories that were taken over sometime during the 1960s or 1970s, and whose owners or even their heirs are still around). Another way to divest the means of production is to sell shares of it to the workers, individually or collectively. Another way is to auction these off (in Czechoslovakia – 1990) with only citizen/residents allowed to bid on the first round. How you’d manage the auction is something to think about. Another way is to sell it to foreign investors.

In a centralized economy, there would be only one union. A step away from this would be to allow independent unions. Albania, I see, allowed independent trade unions in 1991, and then there was a general strike later that spring.

Jeffries says that at the time of writing (1991), “Vietnam’s leaders draw a clear distinction between political and economic liberalization. Multi-party democracy has been ruled out and political reform has followed the line of separating party and state, ending abuses such as special privileges and corruption, and forging closer links with the people. As in China, stability is considered a prerequisite for successful economic reform and recently there has been a tightening of political control…” (page 41). This was nearly 25 years ago.

Getting Ready (8)

Went to the Berkeley city library. All the contemporary books on Vietnam trade unions are “unavailable,” even using Link+. However, I was able to order three books by Le Duan (1907-1986) written in 1960s-1970s.  My access to the U of Illinois library is all set up, thanks to a lot of help from people there, but I won’t be able to actually get hard copy books from them, just what is available on line. I intend to re-up my full access to the UC Berkeley library system. I’ll do that after June 4, when we get back from Iowa.

I’ve started writing my class. The syllabus I was sent had 9 units, or chapters, so I’m laying out a 9 unit set. For each set, I begin with a story. The story reveals something about the problems or demands of leadership. These are not necessarily stories about unions or even about work. One, for example, tells how King Lear threw away all the tools of leadership, one after the other — his crown, his lands, his role as father, and finally his sanity. Another tells the story of a leader of a team of firefighters trapped in a forest fire and asks why none of the team members followed the leader’s example, which saved his life. Another one is from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, which is apparently for sale in airports in Asia. In this story, John D. Rockefeller “makes friends out of enemies” by talking in a friendly way to representatives (it doesn’t say exactly who) of miners, after the Ludlow Massacre.  Actually, I’m not sure if I can use that one. Teaching “against the text” in a cross-cultural situation may not work. Another is from Machiavelli’s The Prince. The stories are short, one or two pages, and should be translatable. They are followed by discussion questions. I intend to wrap this up as soon as I can and send it to our contacts at Ton Duc Thong to see if this is anything like what they have in mind.

Joe thinks that stories are not necessarily the most accessible rhetorical form for teaching cross-culturally. He has been reading a book about Buddhism and says that he thinks that a rhetorical form that would carry across cultures is a list. As in, “The Five Points of XXX, ” or “The Ten Steps of XXX”. I think he may be right.

I am going on the assumption that our students will be undergraduates.

I have now read two of the books that have been suggested for use by Ton Duc Thong in their curriculum. They are the sort of book that might be used in a business school, in a marketing class.

Getting Ready (7) Sergio Finardi

I have come back, on New Years Eve 2015, to read this again and to listen to Sergio. We received news last month from his partner, Giamila, that he died of lung cancer. We have lost a good friend and a good colleague and someone from whom I always learned, and who was not reluctant to share what he knew. This is a very sad piece of news. We didn’t actually know he was sick. He had had a heart problem two years ago and stopped smoking, but we hadn’t heard any news since then.

 

Sergio sent me the comments below. I am reviewing them now, December 31st, in preparation for the Jan 14 meeting to discuss the potential impact of TPP.

____________________

 

We are getting some help from friends. Sergio Finardi in Chicago wrote at length in response to my problem understanding what union representation means in Vietnam.

I have noticed that sometimes when I quote something, it shows up on my “preview” as indented, but then when it goes into the published blog, the indentation, which is how you know it is a quote, is gone. Most of what follows was written by Sergio, with one or two questions interspersed from me. Since I can’t trust the text to indent, i’m going to use a line between speakers.

_______________________________________________________________________________

On May 25, 2015, at 1:04 AM, Sergio wrote:

Thank you for sending the link. I read all the posts and understood the situation. I will surely follow the blog. Two main comments and a bit of advice, so far:

1) From what is known, in the recent past the way Vietnamese workers have organized resistance to the exploiters, no matter who they were but surely more stringently if they were foreigners, comes from a war memory the Chinese workers have long since lost. Do not forget that what you see now in the wild-cat strikes – with seemingly no one at the head, directing and coordinating something that is nevertheless surely not casual – is something that their mothers and fathers did during the war against the US and the South Vietnamese government. If you read the literature about the resistance in the South, you will see that most of the time the nightmare for the Americans and their proxies was that incredibly fast appearing and disappearing, where they would show up for three seconds and return underground after provoking a lot of damage. No one to torture, no one to kill, so that the US resorted to killing and torturing people who had nothing to do with those actions and therefore augmented the hostility of the general people against the US. The Vietnamese have a strong memory of fighting tactics and the large majority of them, women and men, were soldiers  with war experience and guerrillas. The young Vietnamese I worked with were surely very conscious of their rights (their laws could be not implemented, but they exist and people in Viet Nam are educated and have surely read them).

More recently, you have seen large strikes being openly organized and directed to fight a new State law on pensions, which means that the workers are still very politically conscious and are not afraid r to attack the government. Do not underestimate their abilities.

I believe that what they need more is understanding how to live in a situation in which there is a real separation between State, companies, unions and how to exploit their different interests, a situation that will be totally new for them. I remember they could not really understand the meaning of the principle of separation of powers in a State.  There was none in their experience, neither under the French nor under the socialist regime.

2) The Vietnamese I remember were politically very educated people, not indoctrinated at all, not blind at all. And very educated in general, starting with a French model of education that was passed to the new regime. I do not know how the situation is now among young people and young workers, but keep in mind that they were far more close to the Euriopen culture and tradition, including unionism, than to the US/UK tradition. You found Le Monde in the hands of intellectuals and party officials far more than the International Tribune.

It is difficult for me to imagine how could you transfer, for example, the types of practices and answers to labor disputes and challenges that are in your book and experience to workers who will live in a “capitalism” and a State completely different from the US. If they believe that your experience is in some way (this is what I understood of their requests) valid in “capitalist environments” they will be surprised to learn that such “unique” environment does not exist and what is valid in the US does not make much sense in Europe, where laws, protections, and traditions are completely different. I can’t imagine a solution for this problem, but your and Joe’s experience could overcome the obstacle.

Advice: you will live in Saigon, which is still Saigon, not Ho Chi Minh. If nothing has substantially changed in the mentality of the people, you will experience two Viet Nams, the North and the South. And the South is (was) still terribly different from Ha Noi, where people were cooperative, serious, with a strong sense of belonging to a country that defied the major world power under the guide of a party of heroes who were real heroes, where no one asked for money ever, no one assaulted foreigners for obtaining something or proposed women to the males. Saigon, thanks to the French and the Americans is just the opposite, servile, full of poor Miss Saigon, corrupted. Maybe the situation is totally different now, but I doubt. So, do not forget that Vermont ethics surely apply to Ha Noi, but Saigon is Sam Giancana.

All the best wishes, it is a wonderful experience and I would really like to be there with you and Joe. If I can help with books from here (mostly on the economic development and the new political and legal directions of the 80s and 90s, i.e. the programs at the origin of the present economic environment) please tell me.

 Sergio

______________________________________________________________________________

 Now I, Helena, am writing.  Needless to say, I read this message very carefully. Specifically, i asked Sergio to expand on the paragraph in which he said:

It is difficult for me to imagine how could you transfer, for example, the types of practices and answers to labor disputes and challenges that are in your book and experience to workers who will live in a “capitalism” and a State completely different from the US. If they believe that your experience is in some way (this is what I understood of their requests) valid in “capitalist environments” they will be surprised to learn that such “unique” environment does not exist and what is valid in the US does not make much sense in Europe, where laws, protections, and traditions are completely different. I can’t imagine a solution for this problem, but your and Joe’s experience could overcome the obstacle.

I asked:

Do you mean “valid in ALL capitalist environments”?? That would be saying that the US situation is unique, and that this “unique” environment does not exist as such in Europe. Is that what you meant? I can see how that would be the case. Our NLRA mainly gives us permission to organize a struggle. It doesn’t set up, for example, a tripartite bargaining relationship. That seems to be what happens in Germany, maybe in Vietnam. I know it has happened in Canada but I don’t know how much of that structure still exists. Is that what you mean?

______________________________________________________________________

Sergio replied:

Dear Helen, what I meant was that the legal systems regulating labor relations in Europe are really very different from the US and (we already talked about this) what you in this country must do in order to obtain your rights or to obtain better conditions usually configures a course of action that is often not necessary in Europe where certain “rights” are guaranteed by law or are a matter of bargaining by the general union organizations (the confederations) more than by the industry union.

For example, you do not need any permission or majority to form a union in a certain factory or sector and there could be different unions representing the same type of workers in that same factory, competing for the confidence of the workers. This means a totally different dynamics in terms not only of bargaining systems but also in terms of learning and representation.

Or contract professors (adjunct professors here): in Europe there are very different systems for them but in general they share some similar conditions with the US adjunct professors, but also a lot of differences because they are protected by default by labor laws that are for all workers and employees and are not present in the US, not to mention benefits who in Europe are a right of all employees and workers and not a matter of bargaining.

If you go from such simple examples up to the unions structures (vertical, horizontal, by ideological/political divides) you find a very different way an European worker/employee is represented in Europe from the way he/she is represented in the US.

All these differences obviously change the mind-frame in which a worker think his/her way to representation, grievance, as well as protection.

Just another “detail”: in Europe we do not have union-busting firms, something you had to fight against all along your history. They do not have a market, because there is no legal barrier preventing workers from forming a union and the fact that the union will become representative is the result of what its members will propose and how many members it will collect along the way (not necessarily the majority). Or a worker can reasonably conceive some of his/her struggles for better conditions not only as a union matter but as a party matter because there are parties whose foundations and goal is the representation of the working class. They can choose that way because it is reasonable that the socialist/social-demoratic/communist party they belong to and has maybe 30/40% of the votes can succeed. Something that US workers and employees can not really hope for.

What I am saying is that post II World War Viet Nam inherited a European mentality in shaping its laws (despite the fact that the US Constitution was actually the model for Ho Chi Minh and the 1946 Constitution – and you surely know that it was an OSS agent to pass him the text). The “socialist cap” limited or deformed those laws or just failed to implement them (there were three other Constitutions before the present, approved in 2013 and surely worth the effort to read). I am surely not an expert on Vietnamese labor laws, but the laws I analyzed in other fields (in particular after the “overture” of the early 90s) were very close to a model of co-participation, German style, with the State in upper position but still coordinating with workers “representatives” and business, a sort of corporatism model. In other words, the political/legal environment has an influence on the Vietnamese union practices that is likely more close to the European model than the US one.

Again, I am not an expert of comparative labor relations, but surely the US system (and its type of capitalism) is very different from the European system and if you think about the foundation of legal systems in Africa, Latin America, and Asia you find that most of the world follow the EU system (if just because of colonies) more than the US system. Let me say: in those few countries where you have to register to vote, the progressive and the labor people spent million of dollars and a lot of time to convince people to register. Political activism is in some way shaped by that necessity at each election. In all other countries no one has to loose time/money for that. You are a citizen, you have the right to vote.

But why you do not need a voters’ registry? It is simple: the US citizens always opposed what is called the “anagrafe” in Italy and is the “registry office” in UK. All people have an “identity card” and their official residence changes whenever they change city (in the US there is not a basic identity document that is the foundation of all the others, as demonstrated by the variety of stuff they asked you when you need a driver license or a passport). You go to the polling station with your identity card and if your name is on the list that the station receives from the municipality, you vote. Many other examples exist, especially in the unionism field.

In this sense, the US and US unionism are “unique” in many aspects and the US unionism is surely not representative of “labor relations” under a capitalist society. It is more the exception than the rule. Unfortunately, it is a rare practice for union officials and activists of both side of the Atlantic to study each other and try to understand each other.

Hope to have answered your question.

Best,

Sergio

__________________________________________________________________________

Whereupon I asked him if I could post this, and went to take another look at my proposed class, which I am trying to draft up now so that I can send it to our contacts to see what they thing.

Thank you, Sergio! This is what friends are for!

.

.

Getting Ready (6)

Getting Ready (6)

Readings:

An article by Angie Ngoc Tran, who teaches at CSU Monterey Bay: Vietnamese Labor-Management Relations: Restructuring and Coping with the Global Economic Crisis. This is from 2009.

Resolution of the Tenth Congress of the VGCL in November 2008 demonstrates a changing attitude within the party state and the unions towards the pragmatic protection of workers through labor union representation at the factory level—away from the conventional political role of the labor unions in socialist countries—and a concerted effort to strengthen themselves so they can hold on to their power. The four main goals of its five-year plan of action (2009-2013) include: 1. increase the membership by 1.5 million people; 2. improve the capacity of workplace labor unions and provide training for union representatives; 3. pilot-test collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) in the Textile and Garment Industries, which employ over 2 million workers nationwide in all types of ownership; 4. allow direct intervention of upper-level labor unions in factory conflicts. These efforts try to strengthen the weakest link—workplace labor union representatives— who are paid by management, and therefore cannot be effective in representing workers.

Posted in SPICE (Stanford Program for International Cultural Education) Digest, Fall 2009 http://spice.fsi.stanford.edu/

We are now in 2015, so we might assume that things have moved forward from here. That is, the efforts to try to strengthen the weakest link –workplace union representatives – who are paid by management, and therefore cannot be effective in representing workers – have moved forward.

This mention of the pilot-tested CBA’s in the Textile and Garment Industries led me to read Katie Quan’s December 2011 project, Collective Bargaining in the Global Garment Industry: Three Way Bargaining. Done for USAID with the VCCI and CLER at Berkeley. This begins with a history of bargaining in the garment industry in the US, which I definitely wish I had read or at least understood fifteen years ago. It would have helped me understand the contracts under which the Philadelphia workers were working. I did not realize that it was the union that caused the contractors – the people who actually owned the factories and hire the workers – to form a contractors association so that they could in turn bargain with the jobbers, who are the people that design the clothes and own the brands. So the contractors became joint employers with the jobbers, then formed a contractor’s association. Then the unions bargain first with the jobbers (for wages, which are actually paid by the contractors, but also for pensions and benefits, which are paid by the jobbers into pension and benefits funds). Then the contractors and the union bargaining, and then the contractors and the jobbers bargain. So the industry gets re-structured through the bargaining process.

She has a simulation where people take the elements of the industry, including the above plus governments, sourcing brokers, NGO’s, etc and asks them to design a web of bargaining that would restructure the industry in their country so that the interests of various local stakeholders would be satisfied.

The only other place I’ve seen this – where the union restructures the industry – is with FLOC, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee in North Carolina, which pushed the growers to form an association so that they could be bargained with.

Dean Hoa sent an email repeating that the majority of their students will be in HR, and also mentioning that they are looking for assistance in developing their curriculum, especially along the lines of what is done at Illinois, McGill, and Cornell. I was able to email Joel Cutcher-Gershenfield at Illinois and Lowell Turner at Cornell, who then passed my request along to three other faculty, and all of them sent along some syllabi. One of the things you can see on a syllabus is how the class is actually organized: projects, discussions, presentations, teams, self-evaluations, etc.

I did a first sort of my labor books, some of which I bought at conferences but never read, to bring to Vietnam. We can have 50 pounds in a suitcase. Richard and Leanna say that you carry a “third suitcase” full of books. I expect we’ll spread them around through several suitcases to make up 50 pounds.

Getting Ready (6)

Getting Ready (6)

Readings:

An article by Angie Ngoc Tran, who teaches at CSU Monterey Bay: Vietnamese Labor-Management Relations: Restructuring and Coping with the Global Economic Crisis. This is from 2009.

Resolution of the Tenth Congress of the VGCL in November 2008 demonstrates a changing attitude within the party state and the unions towards the pragmatic protection of workers through labor union representation at the factory level—away from the conventional political role of the labor unions in socialist countries—and a concerted effort to strengthen themselves so they can hold on to their power. The four main goals of its five-year plan of action (2009-2013) include: 1. increase the membership by 1.5 million people; 2. improve the capacity of workplace labor unions and provide training for union representatives; 3. pilot-test collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) in the Textile and Garment Industries, which employ over 2 million workers nationwide in all types of ownership; 4. allow direct intervention of upper-level labor unions in factory conflicts. These efforts try to strengthen the weakest link—workplace labor union representatives— who are paid by management, and therefore cannot be effective in representing workers.

Posted in SPICE (Stanford Program for International Cultural Education) Digest, Fall 2009 http://spice.fsi.stanford.edu/

We are now in 2015, so we might assume that things have moved forward from here. That is, the efforts to try to strengthen the weakest link –workplace union representatives – who are paid by management, and therefore cannot be effective in representing workers – have moved forward.

This mention of the pilot-tested CBA’s in the Textile and Garment Industries led me to read Katie Quan’s December 2011 project, Collective Bargaining in the Global Garment Industry: Three Way Bargaining. Done for USAID with the VCCI and CLER at Berkeley. This begins with a history of bargaining in the garment industry in the US, which I definitely wish I had read or at least understood fifteen years ago. It would have helped me understand the contracts under which the Philadelphia workers were working. I did not realize that it was the union that caused the contractors – the people who actually owned the factories and hire the workers – to form a contractors association so that they could in turn bargain with the jobbers, who are the people that design the clothes and own the brands. So the contractors became joint employers with the jobbers, then formed a contractor’s association. Then the unions bargain first with the jobbers (for wages, which are actually paid by the contractors, but also for pensions and benefits, which are paid by the jobbers into pension and benefits funds). Then the contractors and the union bargaining, and then the contractors and the jobbers bargain. So the industry gets re-structured through the bargaining process.

She has a simulation where people take the elements of the industry, including the above plus governments, sourcing brokers, NGO’s, etc and asks them to design a web of bargaining that would restructure the industry in their country so that the interests of various local stakeholders would be satisfied.

The only other place I’ve seen this – where the union restructures the industry – is with FLOC, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee in North Carolina, which pushed the growers to form an association so that they could be bargained with.

Dean Hoa sent an email repeating that the majority of their students will be in HR, and also mentioning that they are looking for assistance in developing their curriculum, especially along the lines of what is done at Illinois, McGill, and Cornell. I was able to email Joel Cutcher-Gershenfield at Illinois and Lowell Turner at Cornell, who then passed my request along to three other faculty, and all of them sent along some syllabi. One of the things you can see on a syllabus is how the class is actually organized: projects, discussions, presentations, teams, self-evaluations, etc.

I did a first sort of my labor books, some of which I bought at conferences but never read, to bring to Vietnam. We can have 50 pounds in a suitcase. Richard and Leanna say that you carry a “third suitcase” full of books. I expect we’ll spread them around through several suitcases to make up 50 pounds.