Like business unions, the International Labor Organization‘s primary job is not to promote direct action and worker control, but to prevent it. If that sounds contradictory, consider the following quotation, from an article which notes that there are wildcat strikes happening at least three times a week at present. In response to this manifestation of worker power and direct action, Mr. Conor Boyle of the ILO responds that the workers would be much better off working with the bosses to get ‘better conditions.’
‘Striking is not the way to solve problems. It’s a last resort,’ said assistant programme manager Conor Boyle. ‘If you can solve problems internally, within your factories, you come up with the much better solutions for all concerned.’
I, for one, am confused what pressure workers are supposed to have if strikes (whether ‘official’ or wildcat) are not a problem-solving tactic. (I’m also confused by the concept of a solution that is ‘better for all concerned,’ a statement which seems to include the owners and managers of the factory, whose salaries are directly predicated on low-wages paid to workers).
But, this continuing aggression on the part of workers is both heartening and frightening. It’s frightening because of the constant threats on the part of factory owners to simply up and move their operations to another country if they don’t get exactly what they want out of the Cambodian worker, at exactly the price they want. It’s heartening because wildcat strikes and direct action works (or, as we say in the IWW, ‘direct action gets the goods!‘). For instance, as this same article notes, a series of wildcat strikes in Ho Chi Minh City last year resulted in a 40 percent hike in the minimum wage. Not bad.