NUGW Tokyo Nambu “March in March” Mar 9, 2008 Shibuya


Hi Blog. Word from Louis Carlet on the annual labor union march to demonstrate that NJ workers have rights and needs too. And the will to petition for them. I’ve been to two of these before; they are excellent and well worth your time. Do consider attending. You’ll be convinced that Japan is in fact a multicultural, multiethnic society and will stay that way. Arudou Debito


From: Louis Carlet
Subject: [Nambu FWC] March In March 2008 — Just 18 Days Left
Date: February 20, 2008 5:48:49 PM JST

Sisters and Brothers,

March In March Countdown — 18 days till March 9 (Sun) at 1pm in Miyashita Park in Shibuya

In March and March 2008 news, we will have another prep session this Sunday at 2pm. Get the word out now. Please foward this part of the email on to as many of your friends and family as possible. Let’s make this one the biggest ever. If you like, please feel free to make placards addressing concerns at your workplace. All former Nova teachers/current G teachers — Nova/G will be a major focus of this year’s March in March so be sure to be there so the Nova-G contingent is as large as possible.

Last year, precisely 20 Berlitz members and 10 Lado members participated. The entire membership of some small branches also attended. We also had great turnouts from our sister unions Kanagawa City Union and Zentoitsu as well as a small contingent from General Union, visiting from Osaka. And that was in hail! Imagine our numbers in good weather! Well, don’t just imagine — make it happen! Whether we get 500 or not this year depends on you and me. So let’s rev things up this year.

If you have any good ideas about increasing our numbers, please write me here and explain. We will consider all serious proposals. Nearly all the ideas we have ever implemented have been from the ranks of our membership.

Looking forward to seeing you on March 9 at 1pm in Miyashita Park, just up the hill from Shibuya Station!

In Solidarity,

Louis Carlet
Deputy General Secretary
NUGW Tokyo Nambu

March in March 2008
March 9th 2008, Shibuya, Tokyo

NUGW Tokyo Nambu – Nambu FWC

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5 comments on “NUGW Tokyo Nambu “March in March” Mar 9, 2008 Shibuya

  • Hi there,

    Just wondering.. what is the point of this march? what are the aims? does any one seriously think that it’ll make any (positve) difference?

    I had a look at the website, and simply cannot understand what the issue(s) are. I don’t think we have it that bad here.. after all, if things were really that bad, who in their right mind would elect to come here? In saying this, I understand that the so-called “trainee” system was exploited, but havent the government started to crack down on those who exploit trainee workers? Furthermore, what’s interesting is that although this type of explotation is still a problem, there is no mention of it on the above site – only problems with eikaiwa instructors and ex-nova instructors. Of the “issues” listed, they all seem to relate to eikaiwa. Seeing as it’s a “foreign worker’s caucus”, shouldnt the scope be expanded to include problems with the trainee workers? problems faced by Brazilian workers? problems faced by Iranian workers, etc?

    As for some of the issues listed…

    shakai hoken? sure, this is a problem that many Japanese face as well – even though it’s technically “the law” that every full time worker can obtain shakai hoken, many do not obtain it for various reasons. Seeing as both Japanese and non-Japanese suffer from this problem, I don’t see it as a discrimination issue.

    over time? please… Some Japanese people at my company practically live at the company. Although this is not a good thing (in my opinion) it’s part of the deal living here.

    As for issues that aren’t mentioned…

    starting up your own company? no worries.. try doing that in Malaysia as a foreigner where the law explicitly forbids it.

    becoming a board member? no worries.

    obtaining start up capital? provided you have an appropriate visa (PR or spouse), no worries. In fact, the ministry of finance provide information about obtaining loans for start up capital in English.

    joining boards of commerce? no worries.

    minimum wage? the de-facto minimum wage for eikaiwa is about 250,000 yen per month, give or take (if you’re getting less than this, then I would recomend either changing jobs ASAP, or brushing up your skills). Considering there are as many as 6.56 million working poor families in Japan (who have it worse than have to read ABCs to a couple of small classes of kids every day, source:, your average eikaiwa instructor has very little reason to complain – or at least that’s how it would be viewed from the perspective of the average Japanese.

    I’m confused about what the “issues” are, and what good anyone expects to come of gathering in a park and protesting will do.

    –Then don’t go. But for others, these are very real issues, and many of the improvements you mention above are happening precisely because these marchers have made these issues so clear in the past by doing things such as marching. You make it seem as though those who have trouble either should accept their lot because some Japanese are in a similar-looking situation. Or it’s their fault. Or it’s just eikaiwa. Sorry, many do not agree, and they’ll be there marching. Power to them. They have made a positive difference. And you’ll eventually be the beneficiary of all the gains they make. As everyone has historically in the history of labor movements.

  • Hi there,

    No, what I’m saying is that it’s funny that the site claims to be a “foreign worker’s caucus”, and yet the only issues they mention seem to be eikaiwa/ALT related. Surely the scope should be broadened to include other foreigners who probably have it worse than eikaiwa/ALT teachers. Furthermore, as there are 6.56 million “working poor” in Japan, who have it worse than the average eikaiwa/ALT instructor, how seriously do you think this protest will be taken?

    What improvements? what are you talking about? Be specific.

    If you mean changes to the law regarding the trainee problem, I would think that the pressure put on the Japanese government by the foreign media (I first heard about this problem from watching the BBC world service), and by the US government have had a far greater effect than a few guys that nobody has heard about in a corner of a park in Tokyo. This is the only “improvement” I have mentioned, which has nothing to do with this so-called “foreign worker caucus”, and isn’t even mentioned as issue on their site.

    If you mean overtime, has anything changed? Over time is entrenched in the local culture, no matter how much a few foreigners protest – it isnt likely to change, unless the majority (i.e. the Japanese) decide to change suddenly.

    Shakai hoken? That situation hasnt improved, has it? Besides, it’s a problem faced not only by foreigners, but also by Japanese, therefore hardly discrimination.

    My advice to people in tough situations is this… you can do a lot to improve the situation on your own. When I first arrived in Japan, I worked as an eikaiwa instructor and cleared only about 180,000 yen a month. I was 21 at the time. However, I used my spare time to study Japanese and managed to go from zero to JLPT2 within a year. I then changed jobs (still eikaiwa, but a better gig), but kept studying. I then went back to university, did a master’s degree, and now work as an engineer. The Japanese language school I went to had about 200 students, the vast majority of which were Chinese students hoping to enter Japanese universities, but there were also a few Indian and Sri Lankan students. Of those that I kept in contact with, all are in fairly good jobs, and are happy here. Anyone can change their situation, all it takes is a bit of hard work and determination.

    So do I believe that, as you put it, I’ll “eventually be the beneficiary of all the gains they make”? No. First of all, I doubt that they’ll make any gains, second of all, I believe my own hard work and determination trumps the “efforts” of an obscure group of people protesting about some very unclear issues.

    I do, however, support the rights of these people to protest and to say/do whatever they like. I just disagree with them, that’s all.

    So, (I repeat) what are the issues? why are they not clearly explained? According to their site, filed under “issues” are the following points:
    Soft Power
    The Trils Case
    Rosai Hoken
    Shakai Hoken

    –I’m not going to speak on behalf of the NUGW, but if you have trouble with their issues, feel free to ask them directly to elaborate. The NUGW takes on issues that benefit their members, and there are many other labor unions out there (who will also be attending this march) that deal with other kinds of issues. Just because this particular labor union doesn’t deal with ALL issues under the sun should not be held against them. Join the union and steer it more to your needs, or join a union that already addresses those needs.

    As for wondering whatever benefits organized labor has ever gotten us, and I’m speaking historically, have you ever heard of weekends? Paid holidays? Sick leave? Banned child labor? A 40-hour work week? Etc. Read your history. At the time these safeguards, taken for granted nowadays, were lacking, do you think your individual hard work and determination would have gotten those things systemwide?

    Hard work and determination is not just an individual thing. It can also be a group thing. And sometimes the group thing is the only thing that will work when there is systematic discrimination out there. Even if you don’t believe it’s “discrimination” yourself, it’s still a social problem that needs to be fixed regardless of the nationality of the people affected.

    As for issues specific to Japan, it’s not just gaiatsu that gets the job done. Do some research on articles found on and you’ll see the labor unions involved in bringing several issues to light to the government and the media, such as unpaid wages (Zentoitsu Union), (Ijuuren). Those are specific improvements. They were fundamental in making the Trainee Visa abuses part of the media you heard about. I don’t think you really understand how the mechanisms of social change work. You’re confusing an agent of change with a means of change; it’s not like the media spontaneously finds these things all the time to cure a social ill. The media has to be convinced it actually is a social ill. And that’s partly the work of activists, such as those you find in labor unions. One important example of them is the NUGW. Drop by and learn a bit more about them before passing judgment.

  • Hi Debito, Thanks for your reply.

    no, I’m not wondering about the benefits of organized labor. I am 100% for trade unions, as I believe that it’s the only way to get a “fair go”. Although I am not a member of any trade union, I am a supporter of the Australian Labor Party. In my above posts, I have not questioned “the benefits of trade unions”, historical or otherwise. I don’t need a history lesson from you. I am not talking generally, or “historically”, I am being very specific.

    All I am doing is asking what the issues are. What issues do these guys stand for? Why is it not so clear? If they support all foreign workers and all issues, why are the issues listed on their website so narrow in scope? This is the third time that I ask what should be a simple question.

    The other unions you mention are just that – other unions. I am talking specifically about this union, the so-called “foreign worker’s caucus”.

    In my opinion, having a clear issue that can be communicated effectively and easily is required to successfully facilitate change… e.g. carrying placards saying “equal pay now!”, or something more specific “bring Sahashi to justice!”… vague, hand-wavy statements will not effectively ram the point home to anyone.

    I would be quite happy to drop in to their Tokyo office for a chat. After all, I’m just confused about what they stand for, why the scope is so narrow, etc.

    –Then do so and quit botherin’ me. 😉

  • Hi Debito,

    Thanks for your reply again.

    I find it interesting that after asking 3 times, I cannot get a straight answer to what is essentially a simple question…

    What is it that these guys stand for?

    Why is the scope listed on their website so narrow?

    Why are the issues that they support not clearly stated?


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