For this study, we examined the life course of labor disputes in China by interviewing migrant worker petitioners. After performing statistical analyses on a sample 225 disputes, we find that less than 10 present of the cases evolved into the formal legal channels (arbitration or adjudication), and less than 5 percent of the cases involved street protest.  The majority of cases were resolved or partially resolved through the aid of the small intervention of the government agency.  Being processed through legal channels in fact decreases the likelihood obtaining positive outcome.  While failing to reach the top of the "dispute pyramid,” the majority of the disputes obtained third-party interventions, and in many cases resulted in redress that is favorable to the initial petitioner.   These findings suggest that the Chinese system strives to channel labor disputes away from the legal system for the purpose of control.

About the Speaker

Yang Su obtained his Ph.D. degree from Stanford University in 2013 and is now Associate Professor of Sociology at UC Irvine.  He is author of Collective Killings in Rural China during the Cultural Revolution (Cambridge 2011).  A social movement scholar, he has recently begun to publish research papers in law and society journals, including "Street as Courtroom: State Accommodation of Labor Protest in South China" (Law & Society Review 2010), "Do the 'Haves' Come out ahead in Shanghai Courts?" (Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 2013), “Above the Roof, Beneath the Law: Perceived Justice behind Disruptive Tactics of Migrant Wage Claimants in China” (Law & Society Review 2013)

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