China’s labor landscape is changing, and it is transforming the global economy in ways that we cannot afford to ignore. Once-silent workers have found their voice, organizing momentous protests, such as the 2010 Honda strikes, and demanding a better deal. China’s leaders have responded not only with repression but with reforms. Are China’s workers on the verge of a breakthrough in industrial relations and labor law reminiscent of the American New Deal? In A New Deal for China’s Workers? Cynthia Estlund views this changing landscape through the comparative lens of America’s twentieth-century experience with industrial unrest. China’s leaders hope to replicate the widely shared prosperity, political legitimacy, and stability that flowed from America’s New Deal, but they are irrevocably opposed to the independent trade unions and mass mobilization that were central to bringing it about. Estlund argues that the specter of an independent labor movement, seen as an existential threat to China’s one-party regime, is both driving and constraining every facet of its response to restless workers.
Cynthia Estlund is a leading scholar of labor and employment law and workplace governance. Her new book, A New Deal for China’s Workers? (forthcoming, 2016), takes a comparative look at labor unrest and reform in China. In her previous book, Regoverning the Workplace: From Self-Regulation to Co-Regulation (2010), she chronicled the current crisis of workplace governance in the US and charted a potential path forward. Her first book, Working Together: How Workplace Bonds Strengthen a Diverse Democracy (2003), argued that the workplace is a site of both comparatively successful integration and intense cooperation, and explored the implications for democratic theory and for the law of work.
Other writings focus on freedom of speech and procedural fairness at work; diversity, integration, and affirmative action; critical perspectives on labor law; and transnational labor rights and regulation. Before joining NYU School of Law in 2006, Estlund taught at the University of Texas and Columbia Law School. Estlund graduated summa cum laude from Lawrence University in 1978. She earned her JD at Yale Law School in 1983.