NCUSCR: Aaron Halegua on the Legal Challenges Facing Chinese Workers

In this podcast interview, Aaron Halegua discusses the future of Chinese labor law with National Committee Senior Director for Education Programs Margot Landman.

The Chinese economic miracle of the last three decades has been powered by millions of people transitioning out of agriculture and into urban industrial jobs, transforming labor relations in the process. Legal mechanisms have struggled to keep pace with the frictions and challenges that accompanied marketization and the fastest urbanization in history. Progress in legislating legal protections for workers is often hampered by problems of implementation and employer preferences for unofficial mediation. New research suggests that labor unrest is on the rise, and the gap between legal needs and services remains substantial. Even though China’s Labor Law has been on the books since 1994 and was revised and updated in 2008, problems of wage arrears, workplace injuries, and illegal subcontracting persist. The effectiveness of attempts to curtail employer misconduct is not only an essential question for working class Chinese, but is also of great interest to a regime that emphasizes stability and social harmony. Aaron Halegua, an expert on U.S. and Chinese employment law, has written a new, in-depth report on the legal challenges confronting Chinese workers. In Who Will Represent China’s Workers? Lawyers, Legal Aid and the Enforcement of Labor Rights (October, 2016), Mr. Halegua looks at the structural causes of labor abuses, and offers policy solutions that would bolster legal protections for workers. At a National Commitee program on December 1, 2016, in New York City, Mr. Halegua discussed his new report.

Aaron Halegua is a practicing lawyer and consultant. He is also a research fellow at NYU Law School's US-Asia Law Institute and its Center for Labor and Employment Law. His areas of expertise include labor and employment law, dispute resolution, access to justice, corporate social responsibility and supply chains, and legal aid in the United States, China, and elsewhere.

Mr. Halegua has provided legal counsel on labor issues and law reform projects in China, Myanmar, and Malaysia for Apple, Ford Foundation, the International Labor Organization, International Labor Rights Forum, Asia Foundation, and the American Bar Association. He has been quoted in the New York TimesWall Street Journal, and Economist; was invited to speak to corporations, industry associations, universities, and think-tanks in the United States, Italy, China, and Japan; and has published numerous law review articles, book chapters, and op-eds.

Mr. Halegua also litigates employment disputes and matters involving Chinese entities. He has worked with both non-profit institutions and law firms such as Boies Schiller, Gibson Dunn, Shearman & Sterling, and Kaye Scholer. His litigation successes have been covered by the New York TimesNewsdayWall Street Journal, and Chinese-language television and newspapers.

Mr. Halegua was a Skadden Fellow in the Employment Law Unit of the Legal Aid Society in New York City and a law clerk to the Honorable Richard J. Sullivan of the Southern District of New York. He has a J.D. from Harvard Law School and an A.B. from Brown University. He speaks and reads Chinese.