Liu Cheng, professor of law at Shanghai Normal University School of Law and Politics, is a leading expert in Chinese labor law and labor law reform. This fall he will be touring cities across the United States for a series of meetings, workshops, and talks.
ALR: What facet of labor relations is most exciting to you? What area are you personally most interested in?
LIU CHENG: The mobilization of workers by grass-roots unions in some areas of Guangdong Province and Zhejiang Province is most exciting to me. In these areas, there are more and more grass-roots unions becoming active, energetic and aggressive – as opposed to the era of Planned Economy, when the government protected workers directly, and unions were tasked only with welfare and entertainment responsibilities. What's more, the ACFTU itself realizes the importance of grass-roots unions; in fact, it promulgated a bylaw in 2014 titled Guidelines Reinforcing Grass-roots Union Construction under new Circumstances.
Personally, I am now most interested in the direct elections of trade union leaders at the grass-roots level, and grass-roots union litigation on behalf of individual workers, which can activate grass-roots unions. Because most of the grass-roots unions are inactive, it's early to talk about collective bargaining at the company level, not to mention sectoral collective bargaining. In my opinion, things should be done step by step.
ALR: Collective bargaining or collective consultation is an area where new ideas are emerging. Can you compare and contrast the types of collective bargaining in China and the U.S.?
LIU CHENG: Generally speaking, in both countries, collective bargaining covers only a very small part of workers, and most of the workers are not protected by collective agreements. In the States, union density is only about 11%. Hence, most of the workers are not covered by collective agreements although these collective agreements can protect workers powerfully. In China, most of the grass-roots unions being inactive, there is only very limited so-called collective consultation or collective bargaining. Therefore, most of the so-called collective contracts or collective agreements are only copies of laws and regulations of the government, although the so-called collective contracts or collective agreements cover the majority of the workers. Considering such bad circumstances, labor advocates in both the U.S. and China really need to find more ways to protect workers better.
ALR: Your upcoming trip to the United States is a great opportunity for China/U.S. exchange in the field of labor relations. What are your plans for the trip?
LIU CHENG: This time, we will stay in the United States for 40 days. We will visit New York City, Ithaca, Boston, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Stanford and Los Angeles. We will be meeting with labor law and labor relations professors, union leaders, labor lawyers, NGO activists, and government officers. There will be a lot of meetings, workshops and talks. I'm sure this visit will be very fruitful for the field of labor relations in both countries.