South Korean Truckers Win Strike

Striking truck drivers protest in front of the Samsung factory in Gwangju, South Korea, on June 14. Image credit: Yonhap / Reuters

On June 14, South Korean truck drivers won an eight-day strike for higher wages. In the city of Ulsan, production at the Hyundai Motor Company factory was cut in half due to a lack of raw materials, while at Busan, the largest port in South Korea, container traffic decreased by two thirds.

The strike started over a protest against the end of wage subsidies that guarantee a minimum wage as fuel prices rise. Like in the U.S., the cost of gasoline in South Korea has skyrocketed, reaching a 10-year high this past month. And it’s not just gasoline either – the inflation rate in South Korea hit a 13-year high of 4.8% year over year for the month of May.

The fightback of South Korean truck drivers was inspiring. Not only did the truck drivers’ union go out on strike, but the workers spread the strike to other, non-unionized truck drivers nationwide. They went to different factories, stood outside the factory gates to talk with any truck drivers, and urged them to respect their picket line. Their tactic worked. Other, non-unionized drivers agreed to join them, including Kang Myung-gil, a 50 year old truck driver who joined the strike to protect the livelihood of his family.

The truck drivers won the extension of the wage subsidies. Their fight should be a lesson for all of us. Workers around the world are facing massive increases in the cost of living and rising inflation. But we have the power to organize ourselves and fight for our livelihoods. And once we realize the potential power we have when we do that, we can then fight for much, much more.