Tokyo court rulings chip away at labor unions’ right to free speech

The Tokyo District Court handed down its verdict in the Fujibi case last February, with the Tokyo High Court upholding it in July. On both occasions, I couldn’t believe my ears. The courts ruled that labor union Zenrokyo Zenkoku Ippan Tokyo Rodo Kumiai (Tokyo Roso) had committed defamation and damaged the creditworthiness of Fujibi, a medium-size artwork printing company.

Articles 1.2 and 8 of Trade Union Law explicitly exempt labor unions from civil and criminal liability when conducting legitimate labor union activities. This has been broadly interpreted thus far to give unions extraordinary leeway to dish out harsh criticism of their employers, whereas normally such public criticism would constitute illegal (possibly criminal) defamation (meiyo kison) or obstruction of business (gyōmu bōgai). Consumer boycotts are illegal (possibly criminal), whereas strikes by workers are protected by the Constitution, even if they hurt the business.

So these courts ruled that Tokyo Roso’s actions were not legitimate union activities. What were the actions and what led to these verdicts?

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AKB48 on stage

AKB48 members deserve to get workers’ comp for saw attack

On May 25, a man wielding a saw attacked and wounded 19-year-old Rina Kawaei and 18-year-old Anna Iriyama, two members of bumper girl group AKB48, and a male staffer at an event where fans get to shake hands with their AKB idols.

Fortunately the injuries were minor, but fans were shocked. The victims and their AKB48 comrades must have been terrified.

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Tozen Vlog for May 18, 2014

Tozen Vlog for April 8, 2014

Tozen Vlog for April 2, 2014 – Redacted Due to Victory!

GABA Workers Union

Tozen Report: All Day Dispute Action Against GABA

Last Friday, Tozen GABA Workers Union took its first all day action against GABA’s threat to fire Tozen GABA Workers Union President Tyler Christensen.

We began at 6AM to leaflet GABA Shinagawa Learning Studio. We moved on to Gaba corporate HQ at 9AM. There as we handed out leaflets, GABA representative Satomi Odaka emerged from the building.

The union handed Mr. Odaka a notification of dispute, outlining the specific demands of our dispute.  You can read about them here.  Mr. Odaka responded by asking for our “road use permit,” which we don’t need, physically obstructing Case Officer Gerome Rothman and threatening to call the police.

GABA then took the step of calling the police in an attempt to shut down our protest.  We explained to the police that we were conducting legitimate union activity.  The police decided not to interfere.

We did a loud protest call with the megaphone, and concluded our action. After that, we filed a protest with the company demanding an apology for their obstruction of legitimate union activity.  We demanded they follow the law and desist from interference with union activity.

GABA Workers Union

Tozen went to Yokohama Learning Studio, where Tyler works.  During leafleting, Tyler spoke directly to his colleagues, sharing his story and drawing their support.  He also took to the megaphone in an appeal to GABA management, asking them to “Let me do my job.”

GABA members and Tozen supporters wrapped up their protest at the end of the GABA work day, in Chiba.  We leafleted at the Chiba Learning Studio.

Our first protest against GABA spanned 2 prefectures and the Tokyo Metropolis, 3 Learning Studios, and GABA HQ.  We confronted a hostile management, and meaningfully engaged with sympathetic members of the GABA community.

We would love to think that a marathon fourteen hours of protesting GABA’s stubbornness will mean the end of our struggle for Tyler.  We know, however, this is just the very beginning.

We need your help.

Tozen will not back down when its members are threatened with unfair discipline and attacks on their rights as workers. Tozen knows that all workers in Japan have the right to join a union, negotiate with management, and take collective action to improve their working conditions.

Join our fight.  Let’s make GABA better for everybody.