President Yoon Seok-yeol has put the brakes on the "maximum 69-hour workweek" policy. When asked to review the government's reform of working hours, he said, "More than 60 hours is unreasonable." This is because he was conscious of the voices of criticism that erupted from all walks of life. In particular, there is an analysis that the so-called "MZ union" dissent the 69-hour week played a big role. What kind of organization is the Refresh Workers' Council, called the MZ union", that this government is interested in?
A 91-year-old developer who studied abroad at a prestigious U.S. university and wears a hoodie. It is far from the stereotype of the union chairman. This is the image of Yoo Jun-hwan, chairman of the LG Electronics white-collar union. On February 2, unions from nine companies, chaired by Mr. Yoo Jun-hwan, gathered to form the Refresh Workers' Council. Third-party unions that are not affiliated with the two existing unions, such as the LG Electronics white-collar workers' union, the Seoul Transportation Corporation right union, and the Kumho Tire white-collar workers' union, have come together, and the number of members has reached 21,9. The media called it the "MZ union," and the government announced its intention to support them.
Unions centered on the younger generation have existed in addition to these. But this administration, the focus is on refreshing. Why did Kim Moon-so, chairman of the Economic and Social Labor Committee, meet with them? Why did the Ministry of Employment and Labor announce its intention to increase the subsidies to them? Some media outlets only gave them the name "MZ union" and introduced them as if they were a new wave in the labor world. The current government and some media are trying to see what expectations they have for the "MZ union."
I analyzed the title of the article 'MZ union' – 'Youth generation, anti-union, depoliticising'
We analyzed how the media views the Workers' Council. We used the news big data analysis system Big Kindz to look at articles about the MZ union. From January to March 2 this year, 30 articles appeared, mainly from conservative media (9) and economic magazines (13). An analysis of the keywords these articles linked to the MZ union in the title is as follows.
The one that appeared the most in the title of articles related to the MZ union is "politics". The "essence" that appeared five times is also related to this. In other words, the MZ union does not get involved in politics but focuses on the essence of improving working conditions. The second most common word is "old gun", which can be linked to the "struggle" that appeared twice. The MZ union was treated in a way that distinguished it from the two existing unions and criticized their methods of struggle. The word that appears four times is "fair." We discussed the fact that the MZ union emphasizes the process that the MZ generation and the young generation value. The words "accounting" and "support," which appear three times each, are in line with the current government's "union split," which requires the two major unions to disclose their accounts and provides support to the MZ unions. Taken together, three main keywords can be derived from the media covering the MZ union. Dispensationalism, anti-unionism, and post-politics.
The government and conservative-business journals have given the name "MZ union" to the refresh, trying to use it as a tool to criticize the unfairness, closedness, and political aspects of the old unions. Will the actual refresh match what some articles look like? Let's look at three keywords: generationalism, anti-unionism, and depoliticization, to see what it really looks like.
(1) Dispensationalism – Do young people believe in 'fairness and meritocracy'?
A characteristic of the refresh reflected in the media is that it values fairness and meritocracy. It is something that is often talked about not only as a refresh, but also as a feature of the MZ generation itself. In fact, do today's young generation believe in "meritocracy," which values the achievements achieved by individuals through free competition? Is there more resistance than previous generations to solidarity to care for the weak and help each other?
There are studies that have examined whether Generation MZ is less union-friendly than past generations. As much as unions are based on collective solidarity, they have an image that is contrary to fair compensation based on individual ability. According to a common prejudice, you might think, "Generation MZ hates unions." ⌜Changing attitudes toward labor unions among the MZ generation (New Minjoo, Chung Heung-joon)⌟ show that such prejudices are wrong. The recent generation of young people (19~34 years old in 2019) perceives the possibility of improving socioeconomic status as less likely than the youth generation of the past (19~34 years old in 2006). "Even if I work hard, it won't make my life richer."
Today's youth are being pushed into jobs that are lower quality than past generations. Therefore, we feel the need to protect ourselves from unfair treatment at the company. The study shows that because they are desperate to raise jobs and wages, they perceive the need for unions as high. According to the study, when young people in 2006 were asked if they were willing to join a union, they scored 2.88 out of 4, compared to 3.29 in 2019. This means that the younger generation is more willing to join a union than previous generations. In terms of perception of unions, the young generation in 2019 rated it more positively than the youth generation in 2006. The study found that the perception that having a union protects them from unfair treatment and increases wages is higher among the young generation in 2019 than in 2006.
What do you think of the refresh introduced as the "MZ union"? One of the unions affiliated to the refresh, the Seoul Transportation Corporation right union, has voiced criticism of the regularization of irregular subway workers. As this became an issue, there was a widespread perception that the refresh itself opposes the regularization of irregular workers and values fairness. When I asked refresh if such a perception was true, I got an unexpected answer.
In principle, the position is that they agree to regularize irregular workers and improve their treatment. However, he explained that he opposed the regularization of indefinite contract workers at the Seoul Transportation Corporation because there were unfair problems such as hiring relatives, illegal solicitation, and score manipulation. The refresher asked for a distinction between criticism of individual cases of expediency and illegality in the transition process to regular employees and the principle of protection of irregular workers.
He also said that the refresher does not call itself an "MZ union." Chairman Yoo Jun-hwan says, "There are many members in the LG Electronics white-collar union in their 40s and 50s." The union is said to have come together in the profession of white-collar workers, not as the identity of the younger generation. In fact, one of the unions affiliated to Refresh, the LG Electronics people-centered white-collar workers' union, has responded to the company's dismissal of low-performers. LG Electronics tried to fire employees who did not meet certain standards under the name of the Performance Improvement Program (PIP) by classifying them as low performers. The LG Electronics white-collar union is taking legal action to prevent the dismissal of low-performing union members in their 40s.
· Don't you think it's fair to be given differential treatment based on ability and performance? Why did the LG Electronics white-collar workers union stop the dismissal of low-performers?
"There is a question as to whether performance appraisals are fair. If you have two or more C's in a three-year assessment, you will be scored through PIP training. Because we don't do this publicly, it's hard for employees to know what it's about. In this situation, it is difficult to say that a company's performance evaluation is always fair."
- Yoo Jun-hwan, Chairman of Refresh (Chairman of LG Office Workers' Union)
As such, it was confirmed through some articles that the dispensational theory and "fair discourse" on refresh reflected in it are far from reality.
(1)-2 Another Story of Youth Unions – Youth Union's 'Generational Unions' In
2010, youth unions
were also a hot topic. The Youth Union, which was founded as a "generational union," refused to join the two major unions and East Sea active independently. Now, as is fashionable, "Generation MZ" is attached to every issue, but in the late 2000s and early 2010s, the term for the youth generation was "Generation 880,000." It means that the wage that a casual young worker receives when he starts working is about 880,000 won. As a solution to this problem, "stones and barricades" were proposed. The discourse of the times was that the generation of young people in poor circumstances should unite and win through social struggle.
The Youth Union, which was founded in this atmosphere, has been active East Sea with about 1,300 members so far. It has organized mainly for young workers in the secondary labor market, such as irregular workers, part-time workers, freelance workers, and platform workers, who do not belong to existing companies or are not included in the Labor Standards Act. The Youth Union focused on young workers outside the corporate value chain, which traditional unions do not represent.
Cho Sung-ju, co-CEO of the Political Power Plant, which led the establishment of the youth union, said, "The 'MZ union' at issue now is a 'union made up of the young generation inside the primary labor market.' When unions are trapped in a company-specific system, working to raise wages and secure jobs, it is less relevant to addressing social inequality."
(2) Anti-union – not aligned with the Democratic Workers' Union?
Another big perception of the younger generation is the prevalence of "distrust of existing unions." Articles naming the refresh as the "MZ union" also revealed a significant number of this perception. In fact, we looked to see if the refresh was critical of the existing higher body. "It seems that some media have a preconceived notion that we will be critical of the two major unions," the refresher said, "and we want to correct this." The individual unions in the council are either friendly or unfriendly with the unions of the two major unions depending on the issue at hand, but the position is that they can cooperate with the two unions at any time for refreshment.
In the case of the Kumho Tire white-collar workers' union, which belongs to the refresh, it has actually received help from the Democratic Workers' Union. The top priority for the new unions in the refresh is "separation of bargaining units." Within the company, there is a majority union centered on existing production workers, and the structure in Korea is that they monopolize the power to bargain collectively with representation. In other words, when negotiating with a company to raise wages, the voice of the production union is represented, but the voice of the white-collar union is not authorized to speak independently. If the separation of bargaining units is recognized, office workers will be able to bargain collectively with companies separately from production workers to negotiate their demands.
Under these circumstances, in the case of the Kumho Tire white-collar workers' union, the separation of bargaining units was recognized by the Central Labor Commission. In the background, there was help from the Kumho tire production workers' union. The production workers' union, which is under the umbrella of the Democratic Workers' Union of Metals, expressed its opinion in favor of separating the bargaining units. This is an example of the union belonging to the Refresh and the union belonging to the Democratic Workers' Union joining hands to produce a win-win result.
(2)-2 Another Youth Union Story – Pangyo IT Joins the Game Industry's 'Democratic Workers'
2018, there was a move to establish a union in Pangyo. A boom in union founding has begun in Pangyo's IT companies and game industry, including Naver, Kakao, Smilegate, and Nexon. This is because they imposed a "crunch mode" (overnight shift) in the name of a comprehensive wage system and did not properly pay for it, which caused dissatisfaction mainly among developers.
At that time, IT and game industry workers chose to form an IT committee under the Democratic Union's Chemical, Textile and Food Industry Union (hereinafter referred to as the Chemical Fiber Union), unlike the recent "MZ union." Young workers in the IT industry asked Justice Party lawmaker Ryu Ho-jung, who was a Smilegate employee at the time and later headed the propaganda and publicity department at the Democratic Workers' Union.
Congressman Liu said, "The IT industry has a lot of affiliates and there is a lot of movement between affiliates. So it was necessary to belong to an industry-specific union so that all of our affiliates could be brought together. In the first place, there was a perception that they were employees like other affiliates."
Smilegate, the game company where Liu worked, also formed its first union at that time. In <The First Labor Union> in which he wrote the story when the union was founded, author Shin Myung-jae (pen name Shin Kwang-gyun) explains why he decided to join the Democratic Workers' Union by comparing it to a game.
· Why did you join the Democratic Workers' Party?
"Companies can be advised by large law firms and hire experts in this field. It is almost impossible to deal with such a company on our own. You can't open a PK with a dagger with an opponent who is wearing a full tem in Manlep. We also had to have a starter pack, and we started as an industrial union to find a place to provide that support. (Commentary in case you don't know the game: you can't just throw a dagger on a fully armed soldier with a dagger; we had to have at least some weapons or items.)"
Lawmaker Liu said, "In the case of Kakao, not only the employees of the headquarters, which is the original petitioner, formed a union, encompassing 130 subsidiaries, subsidiaries, and subsidiaries. The Naver union supported the struggle with union dues collected from all affiliates to compensate some of their wages when the call center subsidiaries went on strike," he said, citing solidarity between employees that transcends occupations and companies as a hallmark of IT and game industry unions. Lawmaker Liu said, "There seems to be a difference between the IT industry union and the current refresh in terms of 'going beyond the workplace or not.'" For refreshes to produce socially meaningful results, they believe they need to go beyond corporations and work with other young people.
(3) Depoliticization – focus on the essence and political issues attract attention?
Song Si-yong, vice chairman of the Seoul Transportation Corporation, said in a media interview that the union does not need to shout "pro-North Korea, anti-U.S." like the MDP. Shouldn't unions get involved in politics?
When we go beyond the union level by company to the level of councils and general federations, like refreshing, there are many labor-related issues that need to be resolved through legislation and administration. This is true just by looking at the aforementioned issue of "separation of bargaining units." Political legislation is needed to change the "bargaining window unification system," which requires minority unions to bargain collectively through the majority union. In other words, politics needs to play a role in getting an invitation to a place where the unions affiliated with the refresh are negotiating on an equal basis with the company. Raising the minimum wage and pension reform are also "political issues" that are directly related to the treatment of workers and cannot be ignored by unions.
When it comes to "depoliticization," the most welcome thing is the government. The government is pushing for fiscal disclosure in the face of labor reform, and the main targets are the two existing labor unions. The government, on the other hand, is encouraging activities to support the refresh, calling it the "MZ generation." The government appears to be determined to exclude the two major union presidents who have a "political voice" that is a burden to the government, and to communicate with a refresh that shows a "de-political aspect." But unlike before its launch, Refresh is starting to have a political voice.
The government announced a reorganization plan to allow the maximum working hours to be from 52 to 69 hours a week. In the debate on the extension of working hours held on 24 March, the two unions refused to participate. The only representative of the labor community who attended was Refresh Chairman Yoo Jun-hwan. During the debate, Chairman Yoo Jun-hwan made clear his opposition to the 69-hour week. In addition, as a refresher, the government expressed the opinion that the extension of working hours "does not meet the labor standards of the international community." After voicing opposition to the "trusted" refresh, President Yoon Seok-yeol and National Power Chairman Kim Ki-hyun said it was necessary to reconsider the idea of extending the 69-hour week. Refresh appeared to have been founded with the aim of depoliticizing, but gradually he is speaking out and starting to participate in politics.
(3)-2 Another Youth Union Story – Alba's Union, Riders' Union's 'Political Voice'
In addition to the refreshes created around
large corporations and public institutions white-collar, there are also voices of young workers. Founded in 2013, the union is organized mainly by part-time fast-food workers and convenience store part-time workers. Alba's union has continued to campaign for a "minimum wage of 10,000 won" and was accepted as a political issue during the general and presidential elections. Under the Moon Jae-in government, which was elected after accepting the promise of a "minimum wage of 10,000 won," the minimum wage was significantly increased.
Some of the young people who were active in the Albaunion formed the Riders Union in 2019. The Riders Union, which was created to protect the rights and interests of delivery drivers working on platforms such as Delivery Nation and Coupang, represented the voice of riders in the delivery platform business that has expanded significantly in the Corona era.