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China: Gig economy labour organizer detained after calling for collective action against e-commerce companies

'He Tried To Organize Workers In China's Gig Economy. Now He Faces 5 Years In Jail', 13 April 2021

Zipping along Beijing's streets on an electric scooter with sometimes death-defying speed, Chen Guojiang delivered hundreds of take-out food orders a day. Along the way, he filmed short videos that documented the viciously competitive conditions for China's estimated 3 million workers who use digital platforms for delivery jobs. More than once, he has called for collective action against powerful e-commerce companies, demanding better pay. That effectively made 31-year-old Chen — or Mengzhu, as he is more widely known — one of China's few remaining labor organizers. Then in February, he disappeared. News emerged the next month that he was in detention... In March, nearly one month after his disappearance, authorities confirmed police had detained Mengzhu for picking quarrels and provoking trouble...

Mengzhu's arrest comes even as same-day delivery workers are gaining more social recognition in China for the crucial economic and social role they play... Some of China's biggest private companies such as Baidu, Alibaba and JD.com run lucrative e-commerce and food platforms that rely on delivery workers to brave urban traffic, extreme weather and broken elevators to fulfill orders... Some e-commerce delivery workers have tried to organize wildcat strikes demanding higher pay and a less exhausting work schedule...

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