Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Unions fight back against large-scale state repression of labor organizing in Kansai concrete industry

From 10 a.m. to noon on New Year’s Day, roughly 460 people from the Kinki and Tokai regions of Japan gathered at the Osaka Prefectural Police Headquarters and angrily protested the unfair treatment and persecution of a regional union. The now-annual event was led by a group whose name translated to English is “The Executive Committee to Stop the Suppression of Labor Unions.”

After opening remarks by the Secretary General of the Education Workers and Amalgamated Union Osaka, who chaired the event, Katsuhiko Kobayashi, the Chair of the Osaka branch of the All Japan Dockworkers Union, known as Zenkowan in Japanese, gave a speech on behalf of the Executive Committee. “For the first two years we demanded that the police release our comrades. Now, in the 5th year of this struggle, it is more important than ever that we keep up the pressure” Kobayashi said.

Kobayashi’s remarks refer to the suppression and persecution by the police and organized crime of the Kansai Concrete Branch of the All Japan Construction and Transportation Solidarity Union, often called Kannama for short in Japanese. Around 90 members of the militant and highly active union have been arrested, with one member held in jail for nearly two years without a trial. Many have been charged with obstruction of business or attempted extortion for routine union activities such as handing out union flyers and conducting safety and labor inspections. Kannama members have also alleged that they have been intimidated by members of organized crime organizations.

After chants led by the Secretary General of Kannama, the union’s Committee Chair, Yukawa, spoke about 3 court decisions in which the union is the defendant that are expected to come in 2023. Stating that the prosecution's arguments were completely false, and that they were operating on the principle that “...If you tell a lie 100 times it becomes true.” Yukawa said that the union can not allow this, and that the union and its supporters will continue to fight the cases.

Statements of support were also given by representatives from the Kyoto-Shiga Executive Committee of the Tokai Organization to Stop the Suppression of Kannama, the Kobe branch of the Hyogo Zenkowan, the Hyogo Union, the Osaka National Trade Union Council, the Nakama Union, the Kansai Joint Labor Union, among others.

Yuko Murayama, the chair of the Takatsuki Medical and Welfare Labor Union, spoke about her intention to run in the local elections this spring. After a musical performance in support of nurses as they fight to stop funding cutbacks, there were more words of support from the Organization to Oppose Nuclear Power in Wakaba, the Kyoto University Student Association, and the Kyoto Committee to Oppose X-band Radar Military Bases. Akiko Oishi, a member of the Rentai Union and member of the Lower House of the National Diet, said “Some accuse Kannama Union of being a gang, but the real criminals are the government administration and the Innovation party” referring to the Osaka Prefectural Government’s ruling conservative Liberal Democratic Party and their smaller ideological ally, the Japan Innovation Party.

Former Kadoma City Councilor Hisayoshi Toda and Toyonaka City Councilor Makoto Kimura, both members of the Solidarity Councilors Network, also gave their support. Yamakawa of the Nakama Union also expressed his intention to contest the Osaka Joto Ward election with the appeal "No casino in Osaka!"

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

JAL workers still fighting unfair dismissals from 2010




​​350 people gathered at the Bunkyo Ward Community Center in Tokyo on December 9th to show their support for 165 Japan Airlines (JAL) workers who were unfairly dismissed in 2010. The gathering included 32 of the unfairly dismissed employees who are still fighting to reach a fair settlement. On July 29th, two unions representing the workers, the Crew Members Union (Jouin Kumiai) and the Cabin Crew Union, accepted an offer from JAL to reinstate the workers as fixed-term contractors on a 2 year basis, which would leave the workers' jobs much more insecure than the permanent contracts on which they were employed at the time of their dismissal. At the gathering, the Executive Committee to Resolve the JAL Labor Dispute claimed that this offer is a way to increase the pool of precariously employed workers for JAL and to avoid having to comply with the more stringent labor protections that come with permanent employment. The JAL Dismissed Workers Union (officially abbreviated as JHU), another union representing the unfairly dismissed JAL workers, has also come out strongly against the 2-year contract offer from JAL, demanding that workers who wish to return to their jobs are allowed to do so and that all unfairly dismissed workers receive monetary compensation. 

The Chair of JHU, Hiroya Yamaguchi, stated that in 2010, JAL illegally dismissed workers based on their age and medical conditions, as well as dismissing workers for engaging in protected worker organizing activity. Yamaguchi also alleges that JAL's stated financial reasons for the dismissals do not hold up. And that JAL hired nearly 400 pilots and flight attendants soon after the dismissals in question.

In addition to the unions, 13 national elected politicians, lawyers, and researchers gave their support to the unfairly dismissed workers.