28,000 Samsung Korean workers set strike
A logo of the Samsung Electronics Co. is seen at its office in Seoul, South Korea. | AP

SEOUL, South Korea —Some 28,000 Samsung workers at the big South Korean electronics firm’s main technology plant will strike for a day on June 7—taking a day’s worth of holiday pay to do so—the National Samsung Electronics Union says.

And they’re demanding a 6.5% raise from a firm whose de facto CEO, Vice-Chairman Lee jae-Yong, makes over a billion bucks a year: $1.14 billion in 2023, to be precise, comparability.com reports.

Key issues that forced the workers to walk are the big conglomerate’s refusal to negotiate over pay and bonuses and its general lack of respect for its workers, unionized or otherwise. Samsung leads the world in producing semiconductors, TVs and smartphones.

“We are demanding transparent and fair performance bonuses and wage increases,” union President Son Woomok told CNN. Talks began in January. Workers held a mass outdoor rally in late May.

“There has never been a proper wage negotiation. It has always been carried out by announcing the (outcome) at the labor-management council, which does not include our union, and the company telling us to accept it,” he added.

“We can no longer afford to see a company that has no will to negotiate,” another union rep said during a live-streamed press conference, adding “we will fight for workers’ rights and interests.”

A third union leader said, ““We can’t stand persecution against labor unions anymore. We are declaring a strike in the face of the company’s neglect of laborers.” Other news reports said if this strike doesn’t get Samsung to bargain in good faith, a longer general strike could occur.

Though this will be the first-ever strike in Samsung’s 55 years, the company, one of four which dominate the Korean economy—comparable to the “trusts” Teddy Roosevelt busted in the U.S. over a century ago—is known for its bitter labor relations and flagrant law-breaking, in labor law and otherwise. It’s one-fifth to one-fourth unionized and that didn’t occur until 2020.

Besides the 6.5% raise, the union demands a larger year-end bonus for each worker.

Those figures pale beside the pay and revenues of Samsung. The firm reported a loss last year, but is back in the black, with profits rising 932% in the first quarter of 2024, compared to the year before, comparably.com reported. Revenues rose 71%.

Seven years ago, Lee jae-Yong, the firm’s billion-dollar man, vice chairman and de facto leader, was indicted for bribery, embezzlement, perjury, hiding assets abroad and concealing profit gained from criminal acts. Four other Samsung executives faced the same charges, except perjury.

Lee jae-Yong, who is also grandson of Samsung’s bitterly anti-union anti-worker founder, didn’t come to trial until 2020 and it was no coincidence that the massive publicity about his crimes coincided with the successful union organizing drive, news reports said.

Lee jae-Yong was convicted and marched off to jail in handcuffs, in a photo that circulated worldwide for a term expected to last five years. A higher court cut his conviction to time served, two and a half years.

His bribery target had been South Korea’s president, who was forced to resign after massive protests of the linkage between big business and politics. The president was convicted of accepting the bribes, and sentenced to 25 years, but a successor pardoned him.

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Press Associates
Press Associates

Press Associates Inc. (PAI), is a union news service in Washington D.C. Mark Gruenberg is the editor.