Several times this year the global dimension of UE organizing and first-contract struggles brought new challenges — and support from Japanese unions. A fraternal delegation representing Japan’s 1.52 million-member National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) had an honored place at the 64th UE Convention.
Zenroren Vice President Ikuya Nishikawa expressed appreciation for the strengthening relationship between UE and his organization since Zenroren’s founding nearly 10 years ago as an alternative to Rengo, a conservative trade union federation with ties to the ruling party.
Nishikawa pointed out that a militant trade union federation existed shortly after the end of World War II, but was repressed by U.S. occupation forces. Zenroren’s decade-long existence as a militant, progressive national trade union is unique in Japanese history.
With the restructuring of the Japanese economy, in subordination to U.S. corporate strategies, Zenroren sees three urgent tasks: the struggle for job security, an expanded system of social security, and opposition to the unconstitutional attempts to expand the Japanese military. Nishikawa thanked delegates for expressing opposition to U.S. bases in Japan and the U.S.-Japan security agreement in resolutions adopted at the convention.
Seiji Terama, the head of Zenroren’s Labor and Research Policy Bureau international department and head of labor research, said the bankruptcy of small and medium-sized companies, as well as mass layoffs in the major corporations, have pushed unemployment to the worst levels since 1953 when statistics were first kept. The number of suicides has grown, and life expectancy has been shortened, as a result, he said. Neo-liberal deregulation and downgrading of labor laws have worsened the situation. This has included additional use of temporary workers and weakening of the 8-hour day. Zenroren will be mounting a fall campaign against unemployment and military build-up, Terama said.
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