Singapore: Straits Times Press, 2014
The Washerwoman's Son is the story of a Singapore hero who rose from abject poverty to co-found and lead a national trade union movement. When Ho See Beng dropped out of school to help his widowed mother, he saw how man's exploitation of man had snuffed out the life of his father, a rickshaw puller. Helping the downtrodden and the victimised became his personal calling.
Ho See Beng's journey takes us through the tumultuous years when Singapore workers were confronting employers for better pay and working conditions, and unions were torn by internal tussles for leadership control. In the battle for members between the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore Association of Trade Unions (SATU), the scale of defections to SATU had Ho See Beng and his good friend Devan Nair fighting for NTUC's survival.
Following Singapore's independence in 1965, Ho See Beng recognised that the new era called for a reorientation of union activism, that the old confrontational attitudes had to be replaced by tripartite understanding and collaboration for the sake of economic growth. He was in the forefront of a dedicated band of labour leaders to ensure organised labour's support for the reorientation.