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Little Bird Grows Up: 18 Years Protecting Workers

Mediation for migrant workers and a richer community


Little Bird Hotline for Migrant Workers, a grassroots NGO working for migrant workers in Beijing and Shenzhen, just celebrated its 18th birthday last month, in a celebration shared with the workers who they’ve helped. At the very end of the 20th century, one such worker from Henan named Wei Wei finally had enough of the little injustices and founded this NGO in Beijing, hoping to make it a platform for mutual assistance for all migrant workers in the city. 


Wei Wei in the early days of Little Bird


In less than five years, that effort already saw concrete results. In August 2004, with the authorization from the Bureau of Justice in Dongcheng District, Little Bird established its Mediation Committee and has since focused on the resolution of labor disputes. 


Little Bird volunteers assist a worker


Now tens of thousands of migrant workers each year benefit from Little Bird’s legal rights protection and urban integration guidance. Expanding from Beijing to Shenzhen, it answers calls from workers all around China and offers direct legal counseling. Since August 2012, its hotline service has proven a huge benefit to both the workers and those who seek harmonious relations between employers and employees. 


Celebrating 18 years and over US$45 million recovered


In the past 18 years, Little Bird reports answering more than 200,000 calls to its hotline, welcoming nearly 125,000 migrant workers who visited their office, and helping workers reclaim back pay totaling ¥312,297,044.4 (US$45,826,296). They count 176,576 migrant workers who have directly benefited from their work, and an additional 303,624 who benefited indirectly. 


Here’s the story of one of those workers, in translated summary from our friends at Little Bird: 


Ren Xiaofeng, about 10 years ago, worked as a proofreader in a printing factory. With a salary lower than Beijing’s minimum wage—and denied even that small salary for 3 or 4 months—he decided to resign from the factory. Yet [to release him from his contract] the boss demanded Xiaofeng pay over ¥1,000. 


Xiaofeng searched on the internet and found Little Bird Hotline for Migrant Workers and learned what they could do. He called Little Bird seeking help and visited its office. Little Bird stepped in to mediate the dispute and the boss became frightened of the consequences. The boss thought Xiaofeng filed a lawsuit and quickly paid Xiaofeng’s salary to end the dispute. 


Back pay finally paid, Xiaofeng has since joined Little Bird as a volunteer to help others in a situation like his. He participated in different training sessions offered by Little Bird and gained more expertise in the work they do. He’s even used his skills from the printing factory to help design book covers or proofread for Little Bird publications. 


At the 18th Birthday Party, Xiaofeng sends his best wishes to Little Bird with the hope that more workers will join the cause and help even more workers in the future. 


Ren Xiaofeng


For Ren Xiaofeng’s full story (in Chinese) and more information on workers rights in China, check out Little Bird’s official WeChat channel (ID: 小小鸟打工互助热线). If you would like to volunteer to help, email xxnrx@163.com or visit them online.


Little Bird Migrant Worker’s Mutual Aid Hotline
Hotline: 6851-5323

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