There has been an on-going debate in the U.S. about how to engage the only legally sanctioned union in China, the All China Federation of Trade Union (ACFTU). Some believe it is simply a mouthpiece for the government and not a real union. Others argue that at the local and regional level, many ACFTU leaders and activists actually agitate for workers' rights.
In to this discussion, I'd toss in this article from today's Wall Street Journal:
China's main trade union stepped up the pressure on McDonald's Corp. and Yum Brands Inc., accusing the fast-food giants of violating labor laws by underpaying part-time workers in the southern city of Guangzhou.
The All China Federation of Trade Union's accusation doesn't carry the weight of an official decision, but the group has strong ties to the government. Its comments come amid a broader effort to pressure foreign companies that have resisted unionization in China, and as Beijing puts the final touches on new labor laws that could further empower government-backed unions.
Both McDonald's and Yum, owner of KFC and Pizza Hut, have said the way they pay workers fully complies with Chinese law.
Government officials in Guangzhou began reviewing the treatment of workers last week, after local newspaper New Express -- which placed reporters undercover in the restaurants -- said student employees were being paid less than the city's newly mandated minimum hourly wage. However, under China's national labor law, students aren't covered by minimum-wage requirements and other rules, as they aren't considered part of the formal work force.
Recall, also, that, as I reported recently, multi-national corporations are doing everything possible to undermine China's new labor laws. So, you'd have to surmise that this is not a black-and-white picture as far as labor organizing goes.