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Michael,

Those are good questions.

I honestly do not know how Wal-Mart employees in general or employees of the specific branch in question measure up against the workers at similar retail stores in China (Carrefour, Meitehao, etc.).

That would definitely be worth investigating. I would be particularly interested in knowing whether Wal-Mart employees at branches without collective contracts are still doing better than their peers at, say Carrefor, just by virtue of the Wal-Mart employees having a union (as I believe they all do now)--or not.

As to the motivations behind the contract, I suspect the purpose of signing it was to advance the ACFTU's experimentation with collective bargaining. Of the possibilities you give, this comes closest to "codification of social reform that the Chinese government wants to pursue"--a good thing, as far as I'm concerned.

I do not, though, know how much this was a grassroots, worker-driven effort. If anyone has more information on this, I'd be very interested in reading it!

But I doubt that the contract was something Wal-Mart wanted. Other employers in China (as in the United States) certainly do not want collective contracts, even if the contracts are toothless, because they know that collective contracts create precedents for more collective contracts.

So, I would say this is an important step forward for workers, though there is a lot that still needs to be done and a lot we still need to know.

Best,

Manfred

Does the collective bargining agreement create a condition of parity for Wal-Mart workers compared to comparable jobs at other retail firms? Is the agreement an improvement, codification of standard market practice or the codification of social reform that the Chinese government wants to pursue. I struggle whether this is a victory for the workers or simply an agreement that everyone (including Wal-Mart) wanted in the first place.

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