Chinese Workers’ Podcast a ‘platform to promote our own values,’ says activist

Chinese media and labour activists attend a luncheon for the launch of the Chinese Workers' Podcast

By Emina Gamulin

You won’t read much about unions in mainstream Chinese media, and what’s there is largely negative, says former Unifor Local 87-M labour leader Simon Sung.

This news vacuum birthed the recently-launched Chinese Workers’ Podcast series that he produces with the Toronto and York Region Labour Council.

“We wanted to set up a channel to tell the Chinese community about some of the misunderstandings and misinterpretations about unions,” said Sung, who created the series with TYRLC senior organizer Jennifer Huang, who he credits as being the brainchild behind the project. “In general, we think we need to set up our own platform to promote our values.”

They got to work, and with seed money from four unions including Unifor, a weekly video podcast was created.

Each episode is a half-hour long, but divided into 15-minute segments. For the first part, the host interviews workers about their experiences in industries such as nursing, community organizing and settlement work. The second part connects these stories to workers’ rights and social-justice issues.

Sung, who previously worked as a graphic designer at the Ming Pao newspaper where he led a successful,but tough organizing drive with the assistance of Local 87-M, says the aim is to go beyond people’s preconceptions about various work situations to get to the truth of doing that labour.

“For someone like a nurse, we only have a simple concept of what they do,” said Sung. “We ask them to give us more details about what they’re encountering in their daily work, especially things we don’t already know about.”

So far the podcasts, released every Wednesday, have focused on issues such as health and safety, women’s issues and work, and Ontario’s Changing Workplaces Review.

“The community worker we interviewed has a lot of experience working for temp agencies,” he said. “He gave us the idea of looking at why ... the Chinese community needs to support legislation to reform the labour laws.”  

Sung says that with more resources they hope to produce shows for Cantonese speakers, but for now the series is strictly in Mandarin, which he says is a reflection of the recent wave of immigrants coming to Canada from mainland China.

“You can see it everywhere,” Sung explained. “For example, when you read a local Chinese newspaper, you see more advertising focusing on mainland China, rather than immigrants from Hong Kong and Taiwan.”

The podcasts are the first part of a larger project where TYRLC will set up a hotline for workers who want to get assistance with problems they’re experiencing.

In the meantime, those who need help can call 647-466-0112 or email Sung at ssung@chineselabour.ca.

Unifor Local 87-M represents nearly 200 Chinese-Canadian workers at the Ming Pao and the Sing Tao Daily, the only Chinese media in the GTA that are unionized.