VIDEO: All on the Same Ocean

UPDATE, MAY 7: After 40 days, the dockworkers have ended their strike with a settlement including a 9.8 percent wage increase. More details and an interview with a strike leader are here.

A new video shows Hong Kong dockworkers walking off the job March 29 and describing nitty-gritty working conditions at the world’s third-busiest port, where their dramatic strike has brought transport to a virtual halt.

Their energy is palpable. “It’s like—the things we’ve suppressed for 10, 20 years, it’s all blowing up now,” one worker says (at 3:59). He points to a co-worker seriously. “Look at his face. He’s done 24. That’s what a 24 looks like.”

Then he cracks a smile. “Actually, you know, he used to be pretty [bleep] good-looking—at least if you shave that beard!”

The video was produced by students from Left 21, a left organization in Hong Kong. Richard Chen, who translated it, writes:

On March 29th, 2013, about 200 dockworkers in Hong Kong went on strike at the Kwai Tsing Container Terminal.

The strike, which has since expanded to about 500 dockers and crane operators, is one of the most significant labor actions in Hong Kong's recent history because this is the first time that a strike has targeted Li Ka Shing. With an estimated net worth of US$31 billion, Li is the eighth richest man in the world. He has a monopoly stake in many industries in Hong Kong and China, dictates much of Hong Kong's politics and economic policy, and epitomizes Hong Kong's rampant social inequality and the "get rich quick" capitalist ethos of the 80s. The dockworkers have garnered massive support from Hong Kong citizens, with the strikers raising more than US$500,000 for their strike fund, much of it collected from citizens at street corners.

As of this writing (April 17th), the strike is in its third week, with management refusing to accede to the docker's demands for wage increases and improvements in their living conditions. You can hear them speak for themselves about their work conditions in this video, which was taken from the first day of the strike.

Alexandra Bradbury is a staff writer with Labor Notes.al@labornotes.org