Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Hong Kong Dockworker's Strike

Thanks to Richard Chen for the work he's done on this and for sharing it.

I've finished translating and captioning a video of the Hong Kong Dockworker's Strike. If you haven't heard me going on about it the last few weeks, the strike started on March 29, 2013 and has been going on for three weeks. It is probably the most important strike to have happened in Hong Kong in my lifetime. It wasn't the largest - there was a steelworker's strike six years ago where I think 800 workers walked out - but this one is happening on the docks.

Hong Kong has the third largest container port in the world. Shenzhen, which is right across the border, is the fourth largest. When I was a kid my dad worked as a foreman at a factory next to the Kwai Tsing terminal where the strike is happening. I used to see the terminal from the MTR (subway) on the way to school . . . they're huge. After I became political I used to look at the docks and wonder what it would look like if a strike were to break out, and now it finally has.

The container terminal is owned by Li Ka Shing, the robber baron who owns huge swaths of real estate in Hong Kong and China, and has monopoly control of many industries in Hong Kong, including telecommunications and food distribution. He is THE symbol of the "get rich quick" ethos that infected the city in the 80s after the unions were decimated and that I grew up in. Li has a large stake in the container terminal in Shenzhen, too.

The video has a lot of good stories by the dockers talking about why they're going on strike and what they work conditions are like. If you know anything about what port truckers in the Bay go through it won't be surprising to you. Crane operators don't get bathroom breaks and have to defecate on newspapers up in the cranes. It's 80-plus degrees up in the cranes. They are on call for 24, 48 and even 72 hours at a stretch. And if you remember my "pook gai" story from last week . . . there's some of that going on in this video too.

In solidarity
Richard Chen

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