Overcoming Collective Action Problems Facing Chinese Workers: Lessons from Four Protests against Walmart

Chunyun Li, Mingwei Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

In contrast to various structural accounts of collective inaction or short-lived contention of Chinese workers, the authors take an agency-centered approach to explain how the few sustained labor protests during closure bargaining develop against all odds. They suggest that workers’ capacity to resolve collective action problems is essential to understanding why a few contending workers are able to sustain protests whereas many others fail to do so. They argue that workplace representatives and external labor activists are crucial for helping Chinese workers resolve the collective action problems that prevent the formation of sustained labor protests. Their comparative analysis of four protests against Walmart store closures—including one unusually long, one relatively sustained, and two short-lived—shows how presence and strategic capacity of workplace representatives and external labor activists shape protest duration. The authors conclude by discussing lessons learned from these cases of closure bargaining for future development of labor contention in China.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1078-1105
Number of pages28
JournalILR Review
Volume71
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

Keywords

  • collective bargaining
  • labor NGOs
  • strategic capacity
  • sustain protest
  • workplace representatives

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