Costco Korea Workers Union hold second strike and picket U.S. embassy


Costco Korea Workers Union hold second strike and picket U.S. embassy

UNI Global Union affiliate, the KFSU-Costco Korea Workers Union, fulfilled its pledge to hold a second strike on 27 April in the face of intransigent Costco Korea management and the company’s lack of sincere action following the death of a young worker in June 2023 from heat exhaustion. 

A strike by workers in February drew some positive changes, with more than a thousand workers getting an increase in hourly wages, as well as the creation of new union branches. However, the company still refuses to negotiate a new collective agreement. 

The second strike took place in front of the Kwangmyong branch store, the head office of Costco in Seoul, attracting a strong turnout of Costco Korea workers and supportive unions from across the country. The crowd united under clear and powerful slogans: “Apologise for Workers’ Accident Deaths! Stop Unfair Labour Practices! Improve your working environment! Win a collective bargaining agreement!” 

Surrounded by over 80 banners showing solidarity with the Costco branch’s struggle, the strike rally featured a literary performance, a postcard writing exercise appealing to the U.S. Embassy, and a symbolic ceremony in which participants wrote their wishes onto paper aeroplanes. The rally also heard the UNI Asia & Pacific Commerce Resolution adopted on 24 April in support of the Costco Korea struggle.  

The rally ended with a strong message for Costco Korea CEO Cho Min-Soo from UNI Global Union affiliate Korean Federation of Service Workers Unions (KFSU) President Kang Gyu-Hyok, said, “We will not tolerate this any longer. And you must answer right now!” 

Appeal to the U.S. Embassy in Seoul

Following the strike, the union held a press conference in front of the U.S. Embassy on 30 April 2024. KFSU President Kang and Sister Lee Mi-Hyun, President of the KFSU-Costco Workers Union asked the U.S. Embassy in Seoul to step up to ensure American companies operating in Korea respect the local labour laws. They also attempted to deliver the hundreds of postcards written from the 27 April strike event but were stopped by riot police officers in front of the embassy.   

The Costco Korea union’s struggle has the support of UNI Global Union and UNI Asia & Pacific. UNI recognizes that the heat-induced death of the young worker is not an isolated incident, but a tragic and highly preventable example of the consequences faced by workers when multinational corporations fail to address the growing climate risks in their global operations. This tragedy underscores the urgent need for companies to prioritize the health and safety of their workers in the face of climate change.