How do post-socialist unions respond to market crisis? And what are the implications of this response for labor representation? Drawing on literature on post-socialist labor and union democracy, I argue that economic crisis affects not just labor – capital and labor – state relations, but also the relationship between union representatives and workers. Such a dynamic is highlighted by an empirical account of the divergent activities of workers and All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) unions in China following the economic crisis of 2008. While the union responded to mass unemployment with an administrative and policy-oriented strategy, workers took to the streets in increasing numbers. This divergence led to several instances of conflict, and, by 2010, it was possible to detect small but significant shifts in the union’s approach to dealing with labor unrest.
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