Hi Blog. Just a quick report…
I participated in a strike on March 24 in downtown Sapporo (Minami 1 Nishi 3) organized by the National Union of General Workers–Tokyo Nanbu (http://www.nugw.org). Four long-term workers in Berlitz (branch now owned by ELS) were summarily fired without sufficient reason, in a pretty clear attempt at union busting. This was joined by two other strikes at Berlitz in Shinjuku and Fukuoka at the same time.
It went very well. Two NUGW leaders, Catherine Campbell and Kate Deaux, flew up to lead the strike, and the local union of unions (Sapporo Kan Rentai Kumiai) with local Japanese labor leaders also brought up a sound truck and banners. After notifying the front desk of Berlitz of the intent to strike, twenty people (including Berlitz students) went outside to hand out flyers at a busy intersection (we passed out 600 over the course of an hour, meaning one every six seconds) without incident. Catherine lead all the speeches in masterful Japanese, explaining the labor law issues to the public, and our sprechicall at the end brought forth smiles from the crowd (seriously).
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Labor laws will not protect your working rights in Japan. Nor will the labor arbitration boards with certainty, or the ministries, or the courts. The labor laws themselves are being revised by the government (as the Sapporo Kan Rentai Kumiai developed in a lecture this afternoon). The only way you will have any job security, especially as a non-Japanese worker, is to join a union. More information at the NUGW link above and at
Well done Catherine and Kate, for coming up to show us how NUGW does it, and does it well. And thanks to the Sapporo unionists for keeping everything strong and local.
Arudou Debito in Sapporo