Money Moves: Labour Organizing in Chinese Supermarkets

Published in Nghtshfts Journal

Ever since Mr. Bao arrived in Canada, he worked in grocery stores. While he has since retired, the backbreaking tasks are forever ingrained in his muscle memory. The exhausting work of mopping the floors, stocking the shelves, and wiping up spills are beautifully captured in the movements performed by Mr. Bao and artist En Lai Mah in the film, Money Moves. The work of being a grocery store employee caused tremendous strain on Mr. Bao, resulting in numerous injuries, including inflammation of his legs and the spraining of his arm. Despite these major sacrifices, wages were low and often below minimum wage stipulations. Hours were also long – up to 12 hours a day – with no overtime pay provided.

Unfortunately, these conditions are not exceptional. This was evident during a rough-cut screening of Money Moves to a tightly packed audience of largely Chinese blue collar workers. Audience members were moved by the film and emboldened to share their own experiences of abuse and injury. A restaurant worker in particular was in tears recounting one such injury, thanking Mr. Bao and En Lai Mah for their courage in telling this story.