U.S. Unions Criticize American Companies In China

American companies are accused of wanting to "water down" proposed labor law; law would help prevent mass firings.

SHANGHAI, China (AP)- U.S. union leaders making a groundbreaking visit to China have denounced American corporations for opposing a draft law that aims to provide better protections for Chinese workers.

Heads of the Change to Win federation of unions, including Teamsters leader James Hoffa, arrived in the business powerhouse of Shanghai on Friday, breaking a decades-old boycott of China by U.S. labor groups who refuse all contacts with the country's sole Communist Party-controlled union federation.

Hoffa said the group planned to discuss opposition by U.S. employers in China to the draft contract labor law, which would require greater employer consultation with workers and make mass firings more difficult.

''We do think the contract law is a good idea,'' Hoffa said. ''Any attempt by American corporations to try and water that down should be discouraged and I'm very much against that.''

Hoffa said the group also planned to discuss the cases of imprisoned Chinese independent labor leaders.

China permits worker organization only through the official All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), which closely follows government orders.

Despite that, Hoffa said he was considered it important to develop a dialogue with the 100-million member ACFTU, especially given the impact of China's sizzling export economy on the U.S.

''I'm interested in asking them, what are you doing to improve the lives of the average Chinese citizen ... how do you improve their wages, how do you improve their health care?'' he said.

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