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Japanese Unions
Real Solidarity


Assistance by Japanese unions to UE struggles is a potent reminder that international solidarity is not a one-way street.

Several Japanese unions are coming to UE’s aid in a first contract struggle, while UE’s sister union in Japan intervened to help overturn an unjust firing at a Wisconsin plant owned by a Japanese corporation.

As reported in the UE NEWS, the union is engaged in a growing campaign to gain a first contract for Local 758 members employed by the Glastic Corp. in Jefferson, Ohio. Glastic is owned by Kobe, a billion-dollar global giant based in Japan.

Responding to an appeal by the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM), Japanese unions have rallied to UE’s side. Through the intervention of ICEM’s Japanese Affiliates Federation, the Kobe Steelworkers Union contacted senior Kobe management in Japan and urged the company to negotiate an agreement with the UE.

The Kobe Steelworkers Union and Tekko Roren, the national steelworkers’ union, also extended their solidarity to UE’s Glastic members and expressed hope that "their contact with the management in Japan will make it possible for the UE local to smoothly carry out its first negotiations with management there."

Daisaku Kouchiyama, president of CSG Rengo, the Japanese chemical workers’ union, who also serves as vice president of the ICEM and chairperson of the ICEM’s Japanese Affiliates Federation, also expressed his solidarity with UE.

"The support from our brothers and sisters in Japan comes at a critical time," says UE Dir. of Org. Bob Kingsley. "On those few occasions when negotiations have taken place, Glastic representatives have conducted themselves in an arrogant and insulting manner. It’s a disgrace when a billion-dollar global giant like Kobe Steel exercises the worst labor practices in the U.S. while presenting itself as a model corporate citizen back home."


Glen Ritacca probably never expected to become a principal actor in an international incident. But when he was fired during a UE organizing campaign at the Iris USA in Pleasant Prairie, Wis. in early fall of 1998, the union’s allies in the militant Japanese labor federation Zenroren went to work on his behalf. Union contacts made by Zenroren (the National Confederation of Trade Unions) put pressure on the parent company, Iris Oyama, that resulted in Ritacca’s reinstatement.

A UE leaflet at the plant gate pointed out the benefits of international labor solidarity; local Iris management responded by calling the union organizers liars!

When Ritacca was fired again, Japanese labor officials again complained to the company, helping to achieve a monetary settlement. In a letter to the UE National office Masatoshi Takahashi, secretary-general of the Miyagi Prefecture Federation of Trade Unions expressed relief that there had been a settlement but regret that it did not result in Ritacca’s reinstatement.

"We cannot contain our wrath in the face of such continuous unionbusting and the dismissal of an American worker by the Japanese company," Takahashi wrote. He pledged his continuing support for UE’s organizing efforts in a letter that made a strong statement of solidarity.

UE News - 06/99

Home -> UE News -> 1999 Archives -> Article

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