China's 150 million migrant workers will for the first time have their representatives at the national trade union congress.
Forty-seven representatives will attend the 15th National Congress of Chinese Trade Unions, which opens today in Beijing.
"Rural migrant workers politically and officially have now become part of China's working class," Zhang Chang'er, chairman of the Hubei provincial federation of trade unions, said.
"China's trade unions will play a bigger role in building a harmonious society with more members of rural migrant workers," he said.
Chen Yanshu, a 33-year-old general manager of a restaurant belonging to the Xiaolanjing Food Co in Wuhan, is one of two representatives from Hubei.
Originally from a village in Chongyang county, she experienced hardship during her childhood. At the age of 7, her father was seriously injured in an accident. Unable to afford medical treatment, he became deaf and the family plunged into greater poverty.
At 17, she dropped out of high school and went to Wuhan to work as a waitress. She was made manager in 1999.
"Migrant workers are no different from others," Chen said.
"We can achieve our goals. It only takes confidence and the eagerness to learn."
Being a national trade union representative "is a lifetime honor", she said.
Yang Zhigang, 32, works at the Dongfeng Peugeot Citroen Automobile Co in Wuhan.
After five years in the army, he returned to his home village in Suizhou in 1999 and made a living growing vegetables.
In 2003 he went to Wuhan to work at the car plant.
"As a union representative, I will share my work experience and keep people informed. I hope the government can give more training to migrant workers, who are eager to learn but lack opportunities," he said.
(China Daily October 17, 2008)