Showing posts with label china_airlines. Show all posts
Showing posts with label china_airlines. Show all posts

Monday, October 28, 2019

In Taiwan, women are the real labor movement

In both domestic and foreign labor, it's the women who are pushing the real changes

In the span of a few short years, I've noticed something regarding labor actions in Taiwan: all of the most successful ones (as well as less successful but highly visible actions) have been organized and carried out by women.

The Taoyuan Flight Attendants' strike (which you might know of as the "China Airlines strike") of 2016, called “first successful strike held by an independent labor union in Taiwan’s history" by the union director has overall been upheld as an example of what organized labor can achieve if they persist. Of course, the flight attendants themselves - remember them, occupying the road around the China Airlines headquarters? - were predominantly female, as were the organizers and public faces of the movement (including the union director, Su Ying-jung). 

The EVA Airlines strike, though less successful, garnered a high level of visibility, both domestically and internationally. Though they gained fewer concessions than the earlier flight attendants' strike, I do think it creased a sense that striking is a legitimate way to push for a better work environment rather than pushing "too far" and being taboo. Of course, most of the EVA strikers were also women.

There was also the China Airlines pilots' strike, which skewed more male (in Taiwan and globally, in the airline industry men are more likely to be pilots and women are more likely to be flight attendants. Someone's going to get mad at me for saying this, but the reason is sexism. But, it's not directly related to my point here.) The pilots' strike was also largely successful, but came on the heels of (and was perhaps spurred on or inspired by) the success of the flight attendants' strike. Other labor organizers have pointed to the China Airlines flight attendants' strike for giving their own initiatives more visibility.

2016 China Airlines strike
China Airlines Flight Attendants' Strike, from Wikimedia Commons - you'll see both men and women engaging in the strike, but I can assure you that the organization and core of this action was predominantly female

These strikes were historic in Taiwan, in part because there really hasn't been much in the way of labor movements or strike actions in the country since the 1990s. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was a strong uptick in the number of autonomous labor unions formed, in contrast to the old-style, often conservative, government-backed unions which were mostly formed to prevent organized labor from making significant ground or challenging KMT control of and profit from the island's most lucrative industries (there's a long history of state interference and personal and party benefit from industry in post-war Taiwan and of course the military dictatorship didn't want organized labor threatening their control, and most autonomous organizations of any kind were banned - labor, women's organizations, you name it). As Martial Law was lifted and Taiwan began the process of democratization, unions in general threw off the shackles of state or corporate control and protests, strikes and various labor actions did take place, but then the movement lost steam. 

Around the same time, the Supreme Court upheld the ruling against RCA for exposing workers to toxic waste - especially carcinogenic solvents - causing high incidents of cancer among former employees. Though the RCA workers did not have all of their demands met, RCA was ordered to pay damages to afflicted former employees and their families. And, again, most of the workers involved and the people who organized to fight the lawsuit were women.

I have been looking into it and can't find a similar example of an organized group of male workers bringing a lawsuit against a former employer and winning in the way that the RCA workers did - if you know of one, please clue me in. There's a reason, however, that this case was considered historic.

While all this was going on, there has been exactly one large cross-industry labor protest of note, which took place in late 2017. Though many of the attendees were female, if you look at the photos, you'll see that huge blocs of industrial union participants were male (indeed, check out the photo of the Chunghwa Telecom Workers' Union from that link). The women I saw in attendance tended to be foreign domestic workers fighting to end their exclusion from many of Taiwan's labor protection laws, and young protesters showing up to represent a variety of related but not-quite-the-same causes, such as marriage equality and Taiwanese independence.

For a number of political reasons which are not quite relevant here, the usual activist groups and left-leaning political parties were largely absent in any organized form, though individuals from those movements did show up.

And that protest went exactly nowhere, and a lot of people felt tricked or misled by the organizers, myself included. To be honest, beyond the foreign labor groups and some of the individual young activists who showed up, the whole thing felt like conservative older men and some leftie labor activists who aren't exactly pro-Taiwan (some people call them 'pro-unification left') coming together to hold banners, and create a whole bunch of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

In short, it sure feels to me like the backbone of the labor movement in Taiwan is female. Not only that, but the future of labor movements in Taiwan are, as well. It's the women who fight back, the women who lead historic strikes, and the women who get results while the men hold signs and criticize President Tsai (but where were they when working conditions were degrading under President Ma? I remember no large labor protests from those eight years. Do you? Why, whatever could be the reason?) and nothing happens.

I've also noticed that the fact that women are leading the labor movement is simply ignored in media reporting of their success. New Bloom, which is usually quite good at highlighting issues of misogyny and gender/sex discrimination, called the China Airlines flight attendants' strike predominantly young, which is true (flight attendants in Asia skew young), but not predominantly female, although it was. They did point out that the EVA Airlines flight attendants were all female, in the context of EVA's frankly sexist and probably illegal hiring policy, but not in the context of women being the vanguard of contemporary labor movements. Taipei Times didn't bring up gender at all when discussing the flight attendants' strike or the RCA lawsuit.

EVA Airlines strike photo from CNA via Taiwan News

Of course, it shouldn't matter, because labor is labor regardless of gender. But considering historic discrimination against women in labor around the world, including Taiwan, what is considered to be overall low labor participation by Taiwanese women (more on that later, though), and the overall tendency of small and medium-sized businesses to be represented by men (regardless of who is doing most of the work) and the painting of men, traditionally, as hard-working entrepreneurs but not women (see the male-oriented phrase 黑手變頭家 which lionizes male 'black-hand' laborers for becoming successful business owners) does matter. It has to matter. I hope for a world where someday it doesn't, but in 2019, it does. 
One of the few examples of a group of women at the 2017 labor protest

It truly feels like women are on the front lines and taking the initiative in a society that is still oriented to respect male labor but not female labor, and getting zero credit.

This invisibility of women as the backbone of labor in Taiwan has historical roots - at least, I think it does.

Looking at Taiwan's labor history, those post-war "home industries" and "home factories" where individuals did manufacturing piecework in their homes were often seen as a way for the women of a household - who, by the way, still had to do all the regular household labor - to help the family income. Men and young people engaged in this work as well: I remember a student who'd reached an extremely high perch in an internationally-known Taiwanese company telling me about pressing plastic leaves for fake flowers with one hand while studying with a book in his other hand, because his father's income as a bus driver wasn't sufficient to support the family. But, so often, it was "housewives" who did this work.

When factories - both large and small - drove Taiwan's industrial miracle, they often looked to women as sources of labor. This was in part because they could pay them less, and in part because they expected the women to leave their jobs as soon as they married and (probably) got pregnant, meaning they wouldn't have to worry about things like severance pay or a retirement pension as they would with long-term male workers. For the smaller factories, men were often the sales and public face of the company, but women did a huge proportion of the actual manufacturing. These factories and industries were seen as 'male' - all those 'black hand' laborers working their way up in the world - but they weren't, really.

When 'family businesses' became part of the small-and-medium sized enterprise boom that helped make the Taiwan Miracle possible, who do you think in the family did all the back-end work? The 'man' (usually a husband or father in the family) would be the public face of the company, but the person keeping the books, taking stock, perhaps doing a large proportion of the actual work, and often making important business decisions was that man's wife. Mr. Chen might be the 老闆 (boss) with his own business card, but Chen Tai-tai - the 老闆娘 - is the real boss. If you want something done, don't talk to Mr. Chen - talk to his wife. Of course, she does all that and also all of the housework and child-rearing, but probably doesn't have a business card.

I say all of this anecdotally, but I've brought up my observation to countless Taiwanese friends and students and not one has disagreed, and while none of my reading states this explicitly, it's strongly implied in several of my sources.

And yet, when one reads about society in the Taiwan Miracle (there's even a book called State and Society in the Taiwan Miracle, which mentions 'businessmen' but generally not the women who actually did a great deal of the work), rarely are women's contributions to this miracle acknowledged, and they're certainly not given credit for being the backbone of this miracle, which I absolutely believe they are.

I've seen this play out in my social circle as well. One of my best friend's parents run a small business in Taiwan, and until recent years my friend's father was the 'face' of that company (though her mother also did a huge amount of the work). Recently, my friend has taken over a lot of the operations and she does get credit as the 'public face' of her family's business, but that's a modern development. But, remember a few paragraphs ago when I touched on "low labor participation" of Taiwanese women? This friend of mine doesn't draw an official salary. As far as I'm aware her job isn't official at all. While she is absolutely employed, I'm not at all sure that the government considers her as 'part of the labor force' (I don't know how they arrive at those statistics). I get the feeling that a lot of wives and daughters do in fact participate in labor outside the home, but aren't counted because it's all informal.

Informality is quite possibly a key, in fact, to why Taiwanese women get so little credit when they deserve so much. Taiwanese labor contracts - if there's a contract at all, which there often isn't in the case of family - in these small businesses are often extremely informal, looking more like agreements between relatives, neighbors or friends than formal work contracts (that's backed up by academic research, not just an observation). I count women's labor for a family business to be labor 'outside the home', though often it takes place literally inside the home (the home often doubling as an office for the family business, or being physically connected to it, in the case of family factories). Families themselves might consider this work to not be labor in a workplace but rather just..women's work that women do for the family, at home.

How much of the labor of women is simply not counted because of this?

To drive home my point, I want to leave you with a story that goes further back in Taiwanese history. In her excellent book, Anru Lee narrates how textile production was banned under Japanese colonial rule, when economic policy was essentially mercantilist (foodstuffs such as rice and sugar would go to Japan, finished goods would come from Japan to be sold in Taiwan). But cloth was scarce, especially during the war, and there was profit to be made in weaving and selling it - so families, often women, would do so. Raw cotton had to be imported and wasn't available to these women, so they'd use cotton from old clothing and household products. Then they'd use their recycled-material cloth to swaddle and carry their babies in public, where they could then sell that cloth without being noticed (women were also considered less likely by the Japanese authorities to break the law, so they wouldn't come under as much scrutiny). In this way, women contributed economically to their households, and did so entirely under the radar.

And it seems women in Taiwanese labor are still under the radar, even when they take to the streets.

* * * 
A few sources for this piece which I didn't explicitly mention (and are in print so can't be linked) but deserve credit: 

In The Name of Harmony and Prosperity: Labor and Gender Politics in Taiwan's Economic Restructuring by Anru Lee

Women's Movements in Twentieth-Century Taiwan by Doris T. Chang

The Trade Union Movement in Ma's Taiwan by Yu-bin Chiu and Uneasy Alliance: State feminism and the conservative government in Taiwan by Huang Chang-ling, both in Taiwan's Social Movements Under Ma Ying-jeou, edited by Dafydd Fell. 

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Taiwan needs more strikes!


As you've no doubt heard if you follow Taiwan news at all, Taiwan ugh China Airlines pilots were on strike until very recently. Notably, while part of the negotiations to end the strike included an annual bonus (de rigueur in most Taiwanese workplaces, so I was surprised to learn that apparently pilots did not receive one? Huh), overall the strike was not about higher pay, better 'perks' or other 'benefits' not related to health and safety.

At the core of their demands were that more pilots be assigned to longer flights, so that total working hours for pilots could be brought down to a reasonable standard that would not leave them overworked and overtired. It also prioritized hiring Taiwanese pilots (including foreign pilots residing in Taiwan) over foreign pilots.

I have no particular opinion about the latter demand, but the former is simply reasonable. Nobody wants an overworked pilot; that's how disasters happen, and let's not forget that until very recently China Airlines had a poor safety record (in recent years things seem to have improved). Although China Airlines says its safety and working hour policies are within international standards, considering said safety record and how overtired pilots can be a factor in plane crashes, I question this.

Besides, it's simply not that culturally ingrained in Taiwan to strike at a particularly busy time for your employer (the strike began over Lunar New Year, one of the busiest travel times in Asia), especially if better compensation is not the employees' core demand. To take an action like this, the pilots themselves must have known that overwork and lack of sufficient cockpit crew was a major issue. The only real rebuttals to these demands were, essentially, "but that would cost money!" (yeah, a safe work and customer environment usually does) and "but we'll lose passengers!" (yup, but you'll lose more if there's a major crash and people will die), which underscores how strong a case the pilots made.

The thing is, this kind of strike has been a fairly rare phenomenon in Taiwan, especially in earlier decades. Up through the 1980s, generally pro-business, anti-labor laws governing collective action made strikes difficult if not impossible (not surprising given the repressive Martial Law political atmosphere more generally), and even in the 1990s, despite some strikes taking place, "legitimate union strikes" were still rare, and difficult to legally carry through. Although strikes have become more politically possible since then, they're still fairly rare, with an exception being the China Airlines flight attendant strike in 2016. (That the ground zero for highly-publicized strikes seems to be China Airlines also points to an anti-labor bent to their workplace culture).

The lack of strikes in previous decades wasn't just about anti-worker labor laws - there is an overall lack of a strong labor movement in Taiwan for a number of reasons. There are surely some cultural reasons for this (think of stereotypical "East Asian" work culture which values hierarchy and collectivism; there's a kernel of truth to it, although Taiwan is certainly more chilled-out than South Korea or Japan in this way).

But, more importantly, it's the result of an intentional political attempt to keep labor from organizing so as to advocate for its own needs. This has been done in a very devious way: not by union-busting or trying to dissuade workers from organizing, but by preemptively creating worker "unions" and "trade associations" that employees in a company or industry may belong to, so as to create the veneer of organized labor, but which is ultimately controlled by the companies or government, not the workers themselves. Such organizations have typically represented the best interests not of the workers but of management (or the government) and did not necessarily take on labor advocacy at all. In fact, what "management" and "the government" might want were not always different, given the history of nationalized industries / state-owned enterprises in Taiwan and how government control of industry and labor was used as a tool for political repression.

Of course, as independent labor movements coalesced, these came into conflict with the old-style "unions", there were disagreements on whether to improve the lot of labor overall or to address specific needs of specific groups of workers's all very complex but essentially, that's the reason why not every political party, group and organization which claims to represent the interests of "labor" is on the same page, or even gets along. For more on this point I recommend Yubin Chiu's chapter on trade union movements in Taiwan's Social Movements under Ma Ying-jeou (I'm sorry that it will probably cost you $50 to buy the book if you wish to do so, though that's better than the earlier price of $150 - and although Chiu obviously comes from a Marxist viewpoint on labor issues, he's good at explaining the fundamentals and historical complexities of trade unionism in Taiwan).

Under such conditions, it's not surprising that the labor movement has not been particularly robust and strikes have been fairly rare in Taiwan.

Anyway, taking all of this together, Taiwan simply needs more strikes.

First, because the typical Westerner's idea of a "strike" seems to involve the workers demanding better compensation. An anti-union libertarian friend of mine has even said that he imagines that only mediocre workers support collective bargaining, because the most talented employees have a strong position from which to negotiate better remuneration - it's only the employees who are not particularly distinguished who need to rely on collective action to improve pay and benefits.

That's wrong for a number of reasons, most notably that it assumes that all collective bargaining is aimed at better compensation for each individual rather than improved working conditions for everyone as a collective whole (it also assumes that more valuable workers don't care about whether their less-highly-performing coworkers are compensated fairly, which isn't always true.) But the flight attendants' and pilots' strikes show that this simply isn't that common a motivation in Taiwan: although compensation played a minor role in these actions, the crux of what the workers in both cases were demanding had to do with overwork and general working conditions.

Although I also support strikes for better collective compensation, there's a moral high ground to striking so that you can do your job better, not just to get more "stuff". Salaries in Taiwan are quite low and organized labor has not made any strong moves to push for better pay overall. There are a lot of hurdles for labor to jump simply in terms of social awareness of this issue: it's still taken as normal that one cannot challenge one's boss; changing jobs more often to garner wage increases rather than asking for a raise at one's current job is still seen as a good strategy; and it's still quite common for workers to defend long hours in the office because they prioritize making more money over having more personal time (even though one could argue that workers deserve both reasonable pay and reasonable hours, the rejoinder is that if management won't even give workers one of these two things, it's unrealistic to expect both).

 Of all the good reasons to strike, strikes in Taiwan seem to happen for the best possible reasons. So, more strikes please.

What's more, modern labor movements in Taiwan tend to be tied to other important social issues -
this labor protest attendee is marching to "end overwork", and also showing his support
for marriage equality

Second, given the cultural and historical reasons outlined above, there's no reason to believe that Taiwan's economy or infrastructure will grind to a halt (as seems to happen regularly in France) due to a large number of strikes. Despite the two prominent China Airlines strikes, they are still seen as a last-ditch strategy by labor unions that have only fairly recently coalesced outside of management control. Without a strong history of striking, it's unlikely to become a popular or even particularly common strategy. I don't foresee any sort of slippery slope here where there's a strike every few weeks over every little issue.

And if workers feel that their complaints are valid enough, and their conditions urgent enough, that this 'last ditch' strategy is necessary, there's probably a good reason for that. More strikes please!

Even if there were a slide into strikes taking place over a greater variety of issues - pay, sex discrimination in the workplace or the gender pay gap (still real problems in Taiwan), long hours - this would overall be a good thing for Taiwan. These are intractable issues that have been allowed to fester. Employers in Taiwan have taken the attitude that "I hired you and pay you, so you have to do everything I ask of you exactly when I ask for it, even if I take up all of your free time and I will take it as a personal affront and loss of face if you challenge me in any way on this or even attempt to discuss your working conditions" for too long. Labor standards are a joke. If strikes are what it takes for management to wake up to the fact that their employees are not their chattel, then more strikes please!

Working conditions, culture and compensation have been problems entrenched in Taiwanese society for far too long, and have arguably hindered Taiwan's economic development overall, as it loses its Millenial generation to better career opportunities, pay and working conditions overseas. Greater labor organization that is not under management control will become easier to attain as workers take stronger collective action, and will be the final step to eradicating the old government/management collusion which has been both historically politically repressive and anti-worker. It has the potential to bring various social movements together (see the image above).

Yet strikes are not likely to become yet another entrenched problem in Taiwanese society given how they are already typically viewed as an action that ought not to be commonly taken.

To put it simply, Taiwan needs more strikes.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The China Airlines strike and outdated expat narratives: Confucian values are REALLY not the problem

Something I've learned: I often have thoughts kicking around in my head for awhile, and I try to write blog posts about them, only to find that they come out ponderous, aimless and full of questionable or dull tangents. An important element of focusing my thoughts is to have some sort of catalyst, some it's-happening-now event to bring it all together into what I really want to say.

That bit of navel-gazing aside, for the past month or so a pushback against the conventional expat narrative of Taiwan being bogged down by "Confucian values" has been kicking around in my head - ever since I wrote about how, while bad management is a problem in Taiwan, "Confucian values" aren't what's keeping Taiwanese workers from taking the initiative at work rather than saving their best ideas for their own start-up small businesses. Long work hours and low salaries are because only a fool would share their best ideas with someone who exploits them through overwork and substandard pay. Taiwanese are no more fools than anyone else, so it makes sense that they wouldn't give their best work to bosses who are effectively narcissistic, self-serving nitwits at best and figurative slave masters at worst. (Obviously #notallbosses blah blah blah).

Well, it's taken the China Airlines zeitgeist to prod me into finally posting about it.

If you think "Confucian values" are Taiwan's biggest problem, you haven't been paying attention and your narrative is outdated. The same old story of "Taiwanese workers are passive, they endure long working hours for low pay and don't complain because Confucius or something" simply isn't the case anymore, and if you've been watching the country change, you'd know it hasn't been the case for awhile (if it ever was, though I'd argue the Ma years were notably turgid).

First and foremost, strikes like the China Airlines one in terms of rhetoric and scale don't just pop up out of a society that is passive, supplicant to authority or not actively looking to improve their own and their country's lot. They don't spring fully formed from a "poor exploited Taiwanese who don't even know they're exploited or if they do, they don't fight back" pile of bullshit. They spring from a long-running activist movement that has bracingly modern values at its core (as I have argued), modern enough that we Westerners, who often think we've got the market on progressivism cornered, ought to sit up and pay attention.

This isn't just a big deal because of one strike, this is a big deal because it's been coming for awhile, reveals Taiwanese society to not be some caricature of a cliched 2500-year-old philosophical system, and because it has implications across every industry where laborers are exploited (which is basically every industry, including English teaching. Yes, that too).

By the way, if you read any one thing on the strike, make it the link above.

This has been brewing for awhile - if you stop and talk to any given group of Taiwanese labor, you'll find that they are well aware that they have been exploited for awhile, and society has been collectively, often tacitly, but perceptibly, working on a solution-cum-backlash. You can see it in the increased rhetoric around worker-led (as opposed to "official") unions, in the New Power Party's pro-labor platforms (well, pro-labor for citizens, apparently we foreign workers don't rate and I'm still pissed about that), in the annual demonstrations on Labor Day, in the economic concerns of the student movement, in the very common desire to quit one's exploitative job and strike out on one's own.

Where out-of-touch pontificating expats come up with these tableaux of beaten-down workers who don't know what's best for them, kowtowing to boss, family and religion, I see a country full of people dreaming of something better and knowing full well, in 21st century terms, what that means.

Simply put, people who gather at midnight to announce a pre-meditated strike that almost reminds one of siege warfare (or maybe I've just been watching too much Game of Thrones) and who talk of improving the condition of labor across Taiwan, freeing workers from onerous hours and unacceptably low pay are not only not victims of "Confucian values", they prove that "Confucian values" never were the problem (or never were enough of a problem to put up much of a barrier to the new tide of activism). People who dream of quitting and opening their own businesses, whether they are smaller versions of the businesses they already work for or a total departure down a culinary or artistic road, but are toughing it out for now, are not victims of "Confucian values".

The electorate's increasing willingness to listen to the youth - a concept somewhat (but not entirely) non-Confucian, and the newly-elected political elite's willingness to do the same, even dropping charges against the Executive Yuan occupiers saying that the "values of the Sunflowers have become widely accepted across the country", are further proof. It's such a deep and long-coming sea change that even the newly-minted opposition are trying to co-opt these values in the weirdest, most discordant and least appealing ways. KMT gonna KMT I guess.

The citizenry's increasing willingness to occupy, to demand, to escalate, to take the fight to social media - none of this screams "Confucian values"...the key being that that's not only the case right now, but it proves that it hasn't been the case for awhile, because these sorts of sea changes don't sweep in like tsunamis. They slowly build like earthquake pressure. The only difference is you can't predict earthquakes, but this could be seen coming since the run-up to the Sunflower occupation.

In sort, this is 2016 AD, not 500 BC (and it's kind of insulting to imply that a culture has not sufficiently evolved in those two and a half millenia). The Taiwanese aren't getting their modern values by looking to the West, but by looking within themselves. And they're not chained to a 2500 year-old-philosophy because they are so clearly willing to fight back. I know I'm repeating myself here, but I want to drive that message home.

To go back even further, I'd like to add that if the main problems in Taiwan could really be traced back to "Confucian values", you not only wouldn't have China Airlines workers striking now, the Sunflowers in 2016, and employees who dream of quitting and starting their own companies, you also wouldn't have had several of the pro-democracy and national identity incidents that have defined modern Taiwanese history. There was nothing Confucian about the uprising that led to 228, the Kaohsiung Incident, Nylon Cheng's self-immolation, the dangwai or the White Lilies, either. The willingness to think, talk, plan and finally fight back in spectacular fashion - non-Confucian but wonderfully modern things all - is truly not new to Taiwan.

Because I like to ramble, two more things before I release your eyeballs, if you are still reading.

The first is that if you think Confucianism is all about the big boss beating down the little guy and hierarchical systems of tyranny, whether it's civil or private, you have a cliched and inaccurate view of Confucian thought. I'm no fan of Confucius, I'm more of a "hey guys just chill" Daoist type myself even though I am personally not very chill, but this is absolutely not what Confucius espoused.

He was all about those in power exercising restraint, openmindedness and responsibility. In not just being leaders because they felt entitled to be leaders, but actually leading. Not beating down their underlings because they could, but nurturing them and getting their best work from them. I suspect if he were alive today he'd be a policymaker at best, a self-proclaimed management guru at worst (I strongly dislike management gurus and business cliches).

I mean, take a look at some of his actual "Confucius Says" proverbs. "A tyrannical government is worse than a tiger" (課徵猛於虎) - that could apply not only to an actual government but a figurative management structure. "Bend down thine ear" (Chinese coming when I have access to my hilariously outdated book of Chinese idioms again) - he affirmed the right of leaders to exercise authority, but admonished them to listen to their underlings. His whole philosophy boiled down not to kings beating up subjects or managers beating up workers, but to society moving together in harmony, as if dancing in sync to music (I think he actually said something like that at one point).

I'm still not a fan, but that Confucianism - *actual* Confucianism - is not necessarily a problem in society, if understood and applied correctly. The West doesn't actually have all the answers.

The second is that I just want to say I am blown away by the maturity and adroitness of the activist movement (all of it, from the workers to the students). They remind me not of hippies - though there's a touch of Bob Dylan in them for sure - and not of union strikes or populists but of Gandhi-style nonviolent resistance (and as Gandhi said, there is nothing passive about nonviolent resistance - in that way too they are not held back by "Confucian values" in the more cliched, or even the true, sense. Even in true Confucianism it's on the leaders to do the right thing, there isn't much room for subjects to resist, even nonviolently). Someone has read up on the Indian independence movement, the Civil Rights movement, the LGBT rights movement, the women's suffrage movement, even as the impetus comes from within the strikers and activists themselves.

They are facing their problems with the only route available to them - the only route that has ever actually worked (look at history - it's rare that violence settles things well, though I can think of a few exceptions. Usually, the only way to get something done and build after you tear down the old order is nonviolent resistance). And they know it. I truly admire them for it.

There is absolutely nothing at all Confucian about that.