NUGW strikes at Berlitz Sapporo, Shinjuku, and Fukuoka


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 ( 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

3 comments on “NUGW strikes at Berlitz Sapporo, Shinjuku, and Fukuoka

  • Hi Debito,

    Not directly related to this strike, but I thought you might be interested to know about the current strike at the Berlitz branch of National Union of General Workers–Tokyo Nanbu and our new website.

    The site has been great for organising our strike which has been intensifying over the last 6 months. I’m not sure of the exact number of lessons that have been struck (I’m not on the executive), but it’s probably close to 2,000 and has so far affected at least 29 schools. The strike has boosted membership as well – new members are signing up every week. I would say this strike is unprecedented in it’s scale and duration in the Eikaiwa industry and perhaps even among foreign workers in Japan. Management is being quite intransigent, so I’m sure the strikes are only going to intensify.

    Despite all the fuss with Nova last year, and a very noisy sound truck that we’ve been driving all over Tokyo we are yet to attract any Japanese media attention.

    If you’re interested in the strike, please take a look at our web site.



  • Berlitz is union busting indeed. Just heard that they are shutting down their Sapporo and Fukuoka branches. Is there any legal redress that teachers or union members can take against this kind of tyranny?

  • If there are still union members, absolutely there is redress. Speak to the union about it. If not, speak to a lawyer.

    Staff should have seen this kind of thing coming and should have supported the union members when they were fired even though it must have been prefectly clear to management that they were going to have to pay a price for such lawlessness.

    Of course the owner also lost a fortune when Lehman Bros went under.


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