Young people, perhaps cognizant of their own role as future parts of Taiwan’s work force, and drawn to the plight of disprivileged elements of society, had in the years before the Sunflower Movement became increasingly involved in labor struggles. For example, in the years before the Sunflower Movement, young people demonstrated on behalf of laid off toll workers who were replaced with electronic tolling systems but were not promised the alternative work they were promised and factory workers laid off in the sixteen years prior to the Sunflower Movement took dramatic forms of direct action such as laying down on railway tracks, organizing through the National Alliance for Workers of Closed Factories, which later became part of the Untouchables’ Liberation Area during the Sunflower Movement.
International Worker’s Day in 2014. Photo credit: Brian Hioe
Young people also took up the cause of South Korean workers from the Taiwan-owned Hydis Printing company laid off as a result of company cuts by their Taiwanese management and laid off workers from the Hualong Textile Company who were denied the wages they were owed after being laid off, who struck for over 100 days in 2012 with the support of student activists. Sometimes these struggles linked up, as seen with Hualong workers demonstrating side by side with laid off toll workers. Youth activists took up the longstanding cause of RCA workers who had their health severely damaged by industrial pollution from the electronics manufacturer’s factories in Taiwan, a scandal which had gone on for decades, and spearheaded initiatives to stand for workers in the hazardous electronics industry more broadly, as seen in the efforts of the “High Tech Cold Blooded Youth” (高科技冷血青年) group. Young have also demonstrated for better conditions for medical workers in Taiwan, such as doctors and nurses, among the most overworked people in Taiwan.
Young workers also took to standing up for themselves through groups such as Youth Labor Union 95 (青年勞動九五聯盟), which called for a higher minimum wage of Taiwanese workers, inspired for global demands for a higher minimum wage such as the “Fight for $15 campaign in the United States” and organized initiatives aimed at unionizing service industry workers, such as workers at McDonalds or 7/11s.
Photo credit: Brian Hioe
The growth of the labor movement was seen in demonstrations as the demonstration in September 2013 of the 929 Citizen Action Alliance (九二九公民行動聯盟), composed of around 20 groups and with the National Alliance of the Laid-off Workers taking a leading role, forcing the cancellation of the 20th congress of the KMT. Later on, this led to such events as the historic China Airlines strike in 2016.
 Hsu Szu-Chien. “The China factor and Taiwan’s civil society organizations in the Sunflower Movement: The case of the Democratic Front Against the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement” in Taiwan’s Social Movements Under Ma Ying-Jeou: From the Wild Strawberries to the Sunflowers. Ed. Dafydd Fell. Routledge, New York (2017). Online. P. 137.