Tokyo - Japanese and foreign workers united here Nov. 29 in solidarity against their bosses for a "sokodo" or all-day action.
The sun shone brightly as workers' footsteps fell on the streets of Shinjuku, in the heart of Tokyo's highest skyscrapers. It was no tour of trinket shops but a precisely organized series of marches and noisy demonstrations in front of a long list of companies targeted for their hostility to the welfare of both Japanese and foreign workers.
A group of labor unions including the Japanese Railway Union and several language-school unions coordinated 32 separate industrial actions. The hundreds at the actions had one thing in common: they were suffering at the hands of their employers.
They planned the Tokyo Sokodo with demonstrations beginning at as many locations as possible throughout the city. Using trains, buses or walking, the many groups gradually converged at pre-selected spots. The demonstrations grew ever larger.
With each meeting of separate unions, the spirit of the workers grew as old and new labor friends joined in the common struggle.
One group of English conversation teachers had been unfairly dismissed from their jobs. Some had spent 10 years with the company. As they walked to the Dai-ichi Kangyo Bank in Uchisaiwaicho they talked of their grievances.
The Tokyo Foreign Language College is refusing to bargain in good faith. A few months before it had fired eight leaders of the teachers' union.
Now the case is slowly winding its way through the Japanese Labor Commission. Max Woolerton, general secretary of the TFLC union, was confident that "it may take time, but we will win in the end."
Until then, the fired teachers are organizing regular demonstrations outside the school. They chanted slogans outside the bank because it is TFLC's financial backer. The unions demand that Dai-ichi Kangyo condemn the unfair labor policies of its clients.
The teachers joined members of the PAL Business College Union for a march on their institution, which also unfairly dismissed an employee. A large contingent of Japan Railway workers--victims of privatization of their once-publicly- owned company--arrived and were soon joined by foreign workers from Pakistan holding the banners of the All-United Workers Union (ZWU).
Two of the Pakistani workers shyly revealed horrible industrial injuries to their hands, inflicted by unsafe machinery at their factories. Both workers will be maimed for life.
As the sun sank behind the larger buildings, it cast huge shadows in the cold concrete canyons between their walls. Nevertheless, the pace of the marchers and volume of their chants was renewed as their numbers peaked for the final action at the Japan Railway main office near Tokyo Station. Speakers called for solidarity between workers of different companies, across national borders and around the world.
[The writer is a former president of Sony Solidarity, the teachers' union of Sony Language Laboratory.]
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