The following statement was released by labor unions in support of the Sunflower Movement on April 5th, 2014. The original Chinese language text can be seen here.
It will be less than a month until International Worker’s Day this year. From the 2009 financial crisis led to an uptick in employment, every year, Taiwan’s workers have only gone onto the streets to demonstrate on this day, targeting government police and raising the demands of workers. Presently, it is also a topic with an intimate relation to workers which have led to boiling over of public rage, that is to say, the CSSTA. Although on March 26th, some workers’ groups and their managers went to the Ministry of Economic Affairs to call for “Quickly restoring order in the Legislative Yuan,” we stand up to oppose free trade, to oppose representative politics in Taiwan, raise three viewpoints:
1) The “Trickle Down Phenomenon” is a Lie, We Oppose The Claim That Free Trade Raises the Living Standards of The Working Class
Some people attempt to use the “Trickle down phenomenon” as a way to beautify free trade, for example, claiming that the “Trickle down phenomenon” advocated by the Ma government from the beginning is water that will drip down from above and accumulate as benefits for workers. But five years on, we can see that this has had limited effects, and this has been the large-scale problem confronted by workers for the past ten years. We believe that different forms of free trade and globalization have not allowed for profits to given to workers. Some claim that “Free trade improves job opportunities and improves labor conditions”, but this is a lie created by capitalists to trick the working class. According to statistics released by the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting, and Statistics, in 2011, the gap between the richest 5% and poorest 5% of families in Taiwan grew by 96 times. In the past ten years, Taiwan’s actual slaries have decreased 3.4%, rate of manufacturing has decreased by .38%, and the wages of the service industry have decreased up to 5.86%. But Taiwan’s goal is economic growth, distribution of wealth among workers has only declined. As such, participants in Taiwanese labor unions and organizations can see that the “Trickle down phenomenon” is only a lie to trick workers.
2) Opposing the CSSTA is a Means For Workers To Have Oversight Over Free Trade
In the labor movement, opposing the CSSTA should be a step towards regulating free trade. This year, within the Taiwanese labor union, there have been demonstrations against the WTO, American beef, American pork, and trade liberalization. Although Taiwanese society has been colonized for a long time by American imperialism, it lacks awareness of or vigilance regarding American hegemony, but this shouldn’t lead to a lack of examination as to the effects of the CSSTA on Taiwanese people. On the other hand, if the weakness of opposition to American hegemony in Taiwan is the justification for not examining the effects of the CSSTA on workers, then there is further no way for opposition to free trade to become a mainstream political issue in Taiwan.
International Worker’s Day demonstrations in 2014, following the withdrawal from the Legislative Yuan. Photo credit: Brian Hioe
Because Taiwanese society is lacking in criticism of free trade, all the more reason for worker’s organizations to take the opportunity to join the student movement, and to emphasize our class consciousness and opposition to free trade, and provide education regarding the opposition to American imperialism.
3) Chaos is Not Because of the Student Movement, But Because of Representational Politics and Democratic Constitutional Government
The normal procedures of the Taiwanese Legislative Yuan before the occupation were the target of protests from labor unions. Some people have used “chaos” to describe the state of the legislature under student occupation. But we must stress, with the way that the normal procedure of the Taiwanese legislature was one in which legislators came under the influence of large corporations, have tormented the people in various ways, and deprived people of their assets through frightening laws. The legislature is violent in a way which makes one’s hair stand up in anger. Consequently, the course of this occupation of the Legislative Yuan is the result of this structure within the Legislative Yuan and comes out of a realization about broken representational politics in Taiwan.
Consequently, in confronting the CSSTA and similar large-scale policies, labor organizations should reflect: Will returning the bill to the legislators for further review be enough to satisfy democratic process? Or should we use this opportunity to provoke more self-reflection among the people? The CSSTA is just a cover for free trade policies as a whole and what is freely exported is the capital of the service industry. Through the CSSTA, the competitive strength of Chinese capital will enter Taiwan to invest in opening stores. Once newly entered capital has fully penetrated the market and supply exceeds demand with the service industry, this will lead to local manufacturers cutting prices in order to try and survive, and competitiveness among workers will be sacrificed in this way. However, for the government, the issue of Taiwanese worker’s livelihood is a problem which is far away and the benefit of Chinese capitalists is more important. This kind of harm to workers in favor of capitalists is something workers should strongly oppose!
Photo credit: Brian Hioe
The CSSTA has been made into a confrontation with China by the opposition party but we believe that in reality, the problem is not of to whether oppose China or not, but is actually a problem of people’s livelihoods. Under the present conflict of labor and capital, the national economy has already established that worker’s salaries are completely out of touch with their living situation, and any police who stand for free trade on behalf of capitalists will become a threat to workers. Standing on the side of workers, we oppose the plot of greedy capitalists without borders, and at the same time, we oppose capitalists acting in collusion with the government and consortiums. This year’s International Labor’s Day, we will advocate that worker’s groups must stand up and fight, with the goal being to target free trade and neoliberal policies with our criticisms and to protect the rights of workers!
Jointly Signed by the Following Labor Unions
Chunghua Telecom Workers’ Union (中華電信工會), Raging Citizens Act Now (人民火大行動聯盟), National Federation of Teacher’s Unions (全國教師工會總聯合會), National Free Worker’s Alliance (全國自主勞工聯盟), the National Factory Worker’s Network (全國關廠工人連線), the Taipei City Industrial General Union (台北市產業總工會), the Tainan Confederation of Trade Unions (台南市產業總工會), the Taiwan Plastic Industry All-Nation Labor Union (台塑關係企業工會聯合會), Solidarity (團結工聯), the Kaohsiung Federation of Labor Unions (大高雄總工會), the Yilan County Industrial General Union (宜蘭縣產業總工會), the Hsinchu County Industrial General Union (新竹縣產業總工會), the Xinggao City Industrial General Union (新高市產業總工會), the Taoyuan City Professional General Union (桃園縣產業總工會), the Miaoli County Industrial General Union (苗栗縣產業總工會), the Kaohsiung City Industrial General Union (高雄市產業總工會), the Kaohsiung City Petroleum Industry General Union (高雄市石化業產業總工會), the Kaohsiung City General Union (高雄市職業總工會).