TakePart published this article today on the reasons for the growing labor unrest in China. As I explained to the reporter, the key driver is the economic downturn. When workers recognize that they have been mistreated by employers, they do a calculus of the costs and benefits of complaining or taking action. Normally, the fear of retaliation causes them to remain silent. But as factories announce they are going to downsize, relocate (domestically or overseas), shutdown, file for bankruptcy, or layoff workers, the "costs" of engaging in a strike or protest decrease (because the worker is likely lose their job regardless). In addition, the lack of an effective union or any other real mechanism for workers and employers to communicate about workplace grievances makes it increasingly likely that workers will need to strike, protest, or engage in some other collective action to raise their demands with the employer and get a response.