Sunday, October 6, 2013

A fine day with Union leaders from Binh Thuan who have just completed a Labor Studies regimen.

PhotoAn important community education program of TDTU is the training of local, provincial, and upper union leadership in the theory and practice of Labor Relations, Collective Bargaining, Conflict Resolution and other key skills necessary to the function and strengthening of workers organizations in Vietnam. On 10-4-2013 our Vietnam experience took a honored turn with an invitation to join a large group of recent union graduates of TDT’s training from Binh Thuan Province and Phan Thiet City.

 Workers were from local, industrial-park based, and the provincial unions as well as an organizer for the VGCL who works for the unions in the area. The conduct of training in far flung areas – in time if not in distance – requires the professors and lecturers who do the training to travel by motor bike to the union locations located across southern Vietnam from the Mekong Delta to the Central Highlands and east along the Coast.  The courses last several months and are conducted at the best possible times and locations convenient for the worker students: the students are from the working class and work their regular jobs and have families and all that.  Three of our good friends and advisers for our teaching in VN are central instructors in these training program.  One of the TDT Professors was the former Vice President of the Ho Chi Minh City Labor Council and the others have been instructing Labor Relations for several years (one of whom has a long career in Human Resources before becoming a Professor in labor studies).  They each are highly capable leaders who have a mountain of experience that they contribute to their teaching.

The focus for the visit of these union members was two fold.  First there was a visit to the POUYUEN VIETNAM COMPANY LIMITED, a FDI wholly owned by its foreign investors the POU CHEN GROUP of Taiwan, in the industrial park to the west and north of downtown Ho Chi Minh City followed by a tour and dinner at the TDT University campus for the graduates.  The Union at the plant represents 80,000 workers and the plant is enormous to say the least.  It was explained that the company has a fleet of 550 buses and provides transport to and from work for  their employees.  When our caravan of TDT Labor Relations students and the bus of union leaders from Binh Thuan Province and Phan Thiet City arrived at the factory and Union Offices, we were met by the President and Vice Presidents of the Local Union of the workers of the POUYUEN plant and a worker delegation.  As we were being met and greeted by the plant employees, we were also meeting the union graduates who were our hosts and guests at the same time.  Within a few minutes we all made our way upstairs to a beautiful union room where the meeting took place.  The total delegation numbered about 50: 35 unionists from Binh Thuan Province and Phan Thiet City, 5 staff members from the Labor Relations and Trade Union Department, and 8 students from the University.  What a day of labor and workplace lessons!
In the meeting room the President of the Local began the meeting welcoming us all again and then launched into answering the questions that had been submitted beginning with the questions from the guest unionists from Binh Thuan Province, then the questions from our TDT students delegation and lastly the questions from the guest lecturers.  During the QandA the union leader invited people to come forward and sing a song for the meeting.  The performances were very good and added a “Maslow moment” to the gathering as the union members were able to receive the applause of their sisters and brothers.  Toward the end of the meeting the Binh Thuan Province and Phan Thiet City delegation presented a gift to the POUYUEN Local Union.  Leanna and I presented the local union President with a bag of UE, Labor United Against the War and Labor United for Universal Health Care union buttons from the USA to be distributed to the officers of the local and a few members.  The meeting ended with picture taking.
Then it was time to have lunch at an excellent Vietnamese/Chinese restaurant in the neighborhood.  Two women from the CSR (plant management) department joined us for lunch and conversation.  Besides eating a lot of good food we had fun doing a lot of traditional toasts with our beverages: mo, hai,  ba , YO and everyone drinks.  At first we performed our toasts at our table and then after a while we got up and moved around the room toasting the new graduates at every table.  Once we had finished lunch it was time to return to the University for the next part of the days activities.
PhotoAt the University we met the delegation of labor studies graduates when they arrived on their bus, boarded their bus with them for a driving tour of the campus.  When we arrived at a spot over near our dorm room we invited everyone to come by and receive Union buttons from us as gifts from sisters and brothers in the USA.  Then we continued the tour on foot of the campus displaying the qualities of the different areas and the administration building, libraries and meeting rooms in particular.  On the 6th floor of the admin building we were invited to visit the President’s Room, named for Ton Duc Thang, the former President of Vietnam and the namesake of the University.  It was a picture opportunity and the VP of the University posed with several people who wanted to have a memoir of this wonderful day.  A special enthusiasm was generated when the workers spoke about the meaning of this university to them: A VGCL sponsored University supported by the working class and a place where they could hope their children would attend.
Photo Two floors down we went to a beautiful conference room where we held a meeting of honor for the graduates with several speeches, three songs by different performers -- just a great time.  

Finally we all enjoyed  a catered dinner in one of the special large meeting rooms of the new Sports Arena facility.  One of the canteens catered the event with a delicious fish and seafood hot pot as the main course surrounded by lots of other goodies.  It was a very fine to sit here and have dinner with these new union friends and feel the warmth of the event.  Sometime after 8pm everyone said good bye, the workers got on their bus to go to their hotel and we retired to our room.Photo  Picture with labor leaders from the Binh Thuan Province and Phan Thiet City.

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