A common trick in the 20th century was for employers to emphasize the differences between the employees of state-owned and private enterprises. As workers fought among themselves, they failed to concentrate their power and demand benefits from their employers. Even if this “labor aristocracy” had their pay cut, other laborers did not experience pay increases, and as the labor movement was weakened all workers were worse off.
Most of Taiwan’s workers are at an organizational, political and legal disadvantage. If they continue to fight over preconceptions of the value of different professions, the battle between lower and middle class will continue while the upper social echelons of greedy political hacks and land speculators will watch from the sidelines. The only result will be that workers will suffer more.
Li Shang-jen is an associate research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of History and Philology.
Translated by Drew Cameron