Chinese Workers vs. Walmart: Brainstorming Solutions to Funding Strategic Labor Litigation in the Wake of China’s 2017 Foreign NGO Law
Over the past two years, China’s treatment of labor advocates was full of conflicting norms: Though the Party remained hostile toward labor organizing directed at domestic employers, certain conditions caused state officials to hesitate in violently cracking down on labor organizing directed at Western companies. Against this backdrop, groups like the Walmart Chinese Workers’ Association (WCWA) were leading successful campaigns to fight worker exploitation through organizing and legal remedies. In order to fund litigation against Walmart, the WCWA received litigation funding from nonprofit groups like the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin (CLB). However, in January 2017, China passed a new Foreign Non-Governmental Organization Law (FNGO), which requires both foreign and Hong Kong nonprofits, like CLB, to register and submit themselves to greater government control in order to continue working in China. As a result, labor nonprofits like CLB are no longer able to fund litigation for groups like the WCWA. This Note proposes one way that Chinese labor organizations and NGOs could address the funding issues caused by the FNGO Law. Part I will discuss the state-controlled All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), explain the role it plays in the larger Communist Party agenda, and discuss the conditions in China that have created an opportunity for labor groups like the WCWA to form. Part II will discuss how the WCWA had been using strategic litigation prior to the FNGO Law, as well as how the FNGO Law affected the WCWA’s use of strategic litigation. Finally, Part III will suggest third-party litigation funding as a potential solution to this problem.