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Take Back Our FutureAn Eventful Sociology of the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement$
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Ching Kwan Lee and Ming Sing

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781501740916

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501740916.001.0001

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Where Have All the Workers Gone?

Where Have All the Workers Gone?

Reflections on the Role of Trade Unions during the Umbrella Movement

(p.123) 6 Where Have All the Workers Gone?
Take Back Our Future

Chris K. C. Chan

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines the role of trade unions during the Umbrella Movement. One would expect democratic trade unions in Hong Kong to follow in the footsteps of their counterparts in other newly industrialized countries (NICs) and play a key role in the Umbrella Movement. However, trade unions and grassroots organizations played only a supportive role. The failure of trade unions to call a general strike and their alliance with grassroots organizations that had a limited capacity to mobilize workers' participation have significantly weakened trade unions' political influence during the movement and led to their marginalization in the first post-Umbrella Movement Legislative Council (LegCo) election and afterwards. The limitations of the democratic trade unions to mobilize their members during the Umbrella Movement in turn are due to structural, institutional, and ideological factors, namely political division in trade unionism, weak workplace organizing power, and the liberal ideology of the political elites in Hong Kong. Although this chapter focuses more on the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), the main trade union center in the prodemocracy camp, the analysis also covers grassroots organizations such as Neighbourhood and Worker's Service Centre (NWSC) as they are also part of the democratic labor movement broadly.

Keywords:   trade unions, Umbrella Movement, Hong Kong, grassroots organizations, trade unionism, political elites, democratic labor movement, democratic trade unions

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