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Chinese workers assemble electronic components at the Foxconn's Shenzhen factory in southern Guangzhou province. - 


Steve Chiotakis: We've seen big worker strikes at Honda and Toyota factories in China this year, a sign of unrest in the workshop of the world. And now, a proposed law in China's main manufacturing province would give these workers broad new rights to unionize. Marketplace China Bureau Chief Rob Schmitz has the latest.

Rob Schmitz: There's at least one worker strike a day in Guangdong province. Up til now, workers were forced to bargain through an essentially powerless government-sanctioned union. William Nee, spokesman for the China Labor Bulletin, says this new law will give workers the right to represent themselves.

William Nee: It has the potential to be a game-changer.

The law says if a fifth of the workforce at a factory asks for collective bargaining, then management would have to sit down and listen. Nee says this is all part of a government response to this year's strikes at Honda and Toyota, and to a spate of worker suicides at iPhone-maker Foxconn.

Nee: They're struggling for a way to try and figure this out and find a way to have more peaceful and more harmonious labor relations. These regulations are a way to try and address that.

And they're a signal to foreign firms that doing business in China may soon get more expensive.

In Shanghai, I'm Rob Schmitz for Marketplace.

Follow Rob Schmitz at @rob_schmitz