Zenkoku Ippan Tokyo General Union (Tozen, 東ゼン) is as its name suggests, a union which does not restrict membership to those working in any one industry, trade or workplace.
The union traces its origins back to 1956; almost as long as the history of legalized organized labour in Japan.
Nearly all of Tokyo General Union’s members are foreign nationals most working in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Gunma and Tochigi Prefectures. Tozen is one of only three or four general unions in the Tokyo area which has a large number of foreign workers.
Although the Tokyo General Union doesn’t restrict membership, it is true to say that it has developed areas of concentration and specialization. Members generally are employed in the banking, foreign language teaching, and publishing industry.
The smallest branch has just three members; while the largest has over 30. The branches oversee the day-to-day affairs of the union at each workplace. Each chapter negotiates with the employers regarding annual salary working conditions. It is only when a chapter encounters trouble or needs special assistance that the staff of the Tokyo General Union central office step in.
Chapter unions are brought together in a number of ways. Firstly, the Executive Committee of Zenkoku Ippan Tokyo General Union has about twenty positions and members of many different chapters are well represented. Second, there are regular scheduled meetings for representatives of all chapters to come together. Newsletters, postal mailouts, e-mailings and Internet web pages are other ways in which information and experiences are shared. There are also plenty of social events organised by the union, where members of different branches can meet.
Tozen is a fighting union! That means that the union is willing to engage in industrial action in pursuit of its aims. In the case of dispute cases, the union wlll use any and all legal means at its disposal (such as engaging in strikes, rallies and leafletings, filing injunctions and dispute cases at the Labour Commission and Tokyo District Court), to achieve victory. This cannot be said of all unions in Japan, however.
1956 Jonan Chusho Godo Rodokumiai (城南中小合同労働組合), a predecessor of Tokyo General Union, was founded.
1960 Jonan Chushou Godo Rodokumiai name changed to Zenkoku Ippan Nambu Chiku Honbu (全国一般南部地区本部).
1973 Sony Language Labs (Sony LL) organized. This is the first unionization of foreigners in Japan.
1990 Kanto Teachers Union Federation (KTUF, 関東外国語教員組合連合) is formed.
1991 General Union (ゼネラルユニオン) established in Osaka.
1994 NUGW Tokyo South (全国一般労働組合東京南部), Tokyo General Union’s predecessor, was founded.
1999 Fukuoka General Union (福岡ゼネラルユニオン) established. National Union Voice union paper launched.
2003 KTUF dissolved. NUGW Tokyo South changes its English name to NUGW Tokyo Nambu.
2004 Nambu Foreign Workers Caucus (Nambu FWC, なんぶ外国人分科会) is formed within NUGW Tokyo Nambu.
2005 First March in March held in Shibuya, Tokyo.
2010 The majority of Nambu FWC branches vote to leave NUGW Tokyo Nambu to join Zenkoku Ippan Tokyo General Union. Zenkoku Ippan Tokyo General Union holds its first General Convention in Kamiyacho, Tokyo. TUWU (Tozen University Workers Union) branch formed. SUITE votes to leave NUGW Tokyo Nambu to join Zenkoku Ippan Tokyo General Union.
2011 Union des Personnels Locaux du Lycée Franco-Japonais de Tokyo (UPL) formed. Zenkoku Ippan Tokyo General Union HQ moves to Yamabukicho, Shinjuku.