Over the past few months, Mr. Wang, 56, has helped organize a national movement in China against Walmart. Labor strikes have hit stores in the south simultaneously. There have been boycotts in the northeast. And here in Shenzhen, where Walmart opened its first outlet in China two decades ago, employees have filed a lawsuit demanding back pay.
“We want a snowball effect,” he said in the booming baritone of a street preacher. “We want everybody to know what to do next.”
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As the Chinese economy has slowed, strikes and labor protests have broken out across the country, mostly scattered episodes targeting a single factory or business. The government has responded aggressively, detaining activists and increasing censorship to keep unrest from spreading.
But activism against Walmart’s more than 400 stores in China in recent months has followed a different pattern: workers in several cities agitating against the same company, bypassing official unions controlled by the Communist Party and using social media to coordinate their actions — while the authorities largely stand aside.
Across China, Walmart employees have raised their fists at protests, chanting, “Workers, stand up!” They have appealed to local officials with patriotic fervor, invoking the struggles of Mao Zedong against foreign imperialists. They have posted screeds online against unkind bosses and “union puppets.”