Shane Workers Union Protest at Shane HQ

On the morning of Friday August 21st a demonstration was held at Shane Corporation Kanda head office where most of management works. Thirty-three members of the Tozen Union gathered in front of the Shane building and protested Shane’s docking of wages and taking away holidays. 

During the government lockdown, Shane told employees to stay home and promised to pay 100% of their salary. Memos sent to staff contained lofty rhetoric, such as,  “Your integral importance in day to day operations at Shane cannot be overstated and we want to financially protect you during this very testing and challenging time.” 

Weeks after the company resumed operations new memos were sent stating that most holidays would be taken away, and employees would have to provide free labor, working 6 days a week to “make up” for the days “missed” during the lockdown. Neither staff nor the union was consulted. Staffers were also told that the already paid salary was now a surprise loan to be paid back should they choose not to provide free labor. 

Recently, Shane Workers Union membership tripled in size. Members include both foreign and Japanese staff. The company plans to dock instructor wages starting with the September paycheck. Salary deductions for Japanese staff have already begun. Twenty-nine teachers went on strike in solidarity. 

At the protest, Shane employees were joined by members of allied unions: Posse, General Support Union, and other Tozen Union local chapters such as  Oberlin Local, Begunto (Berlitz) and ALT local. Shane Corp. continues to refuse to hold in-person collective bargaining with the union. We hope to change this quickly and reach an agreement on union demands with Shane management. 

The members of Shane Workers Union and many of the staff employees never consented to giving up their holidays, providing free labor or taking out any loans. 
Orren Frankham, executive president of the Shane Workers Union, shouted through a megaphone at the protest: “You are taking our holidays; you are affecting the workers; you are making it harder for everybody! We call on you to negotiate with us! Negotiate with us! We have called on you multiple times for CB and you have ignored us!”   

By: Veronika Danovich (member of Tozen Union)

Tozen Daigaku Sexual Harassment 東ゼン大学 セクハラについての講義

加藤 桂子弁護士(法律)
奥貫 妃文(判例)

Tozen Union Atty Keiko Kato and President Hifumi Okunuki will lecture on sexual harassment law and case law for our August Tozen Daigaku (YouTube livestream).
We’ll take questions after the lecture, so ask us in the comments section.
Check details below.

2020年8月23日14:00〜ライブ配信 August 23rd 2020 14:00 START!

Tokyo Board of Education snubs Tozen ALTs

We don’t need to respond to you.

The Tokyo Board of Education told Tozen Union they will not meet its ALT union for collective bargaining (CB). They also refused to respond in writing to the union’s request to negotiate.

Tozen Union previously enjoyed productive relationship with the school board, including talks last year. Today, the union dropped by on routine business, filing a request for bargaining and informing management of two new union members.

Two board representatives said they wouldn’t take the document because a change in the law had stripped direct-hire ALTs of their trade union rights. They refused even to put their refusal in writing and tried to force the union to take the documents back.

“We knew about changes in the law but also understood that boards of education across the country still negotiate and sign agreements with labor unions,” said ALT organizer Gerome Rothman. “We were surprised a school board would hide behind an unconstitutional law and treat their employees like strangers.”

The union refused to take the documents back and demanded an official written response by 5pm, next Thursday August 6.

   “Our union has demands to protect the safety of ALTs working at schools during this pandemic. Board officials interrupted me when I explained the demands, saying ‘we don’t have to talk to you.’”

Shame on Shane – Forty-one Shane workers strike for full corona pay

Few corporations paid full kyugyo te-ate furlough allowance during the emergency shutdown.
Shane Eikaiwa (Shane Corp.), however, paid its teachers the full allowance during April and May. At first glance, the company apparently showed respect to its workers, a company anybody would be proud to work at.

But this pretty picture has turned ugly, with management deducting wages without workers’ consent and trying to get them to work overtime for free.

The number of members of the Tozen Union Shane Workers Union has tripled from just 20 a month ago on June 24, to 71 today.
Today, 41 members walked out, the biggest strike in the history of Tozen Union’s Shane chapter and even in the history of Tozen Union.

We heard of many workplace problems that school counselors faced, but they were reluctant to stand up, organize and fight back. But counselors have joined the union and have now struck. Being the first to step forward is tough, yet they refused to bow to the pressure and took the bold and daring step of standing up.

Shane Eikaiwa presented instructors with two options in late June.

Option 1 was to maintain the same work schedule they had before the state of emergency declaration with no need to provide make-up classes on their days off. But they would get about half their upcoming pay deducted.

Option 2 was to keep all the wages they received during the closure, but then be required to do make-up classes for free to offset those wages. In effect, this means that the money paid during closure was an advance payment for future work.

Option 1 violates a principle in Article 24 that wages must be paid in full and cannot be deducted without the employee’s agreement; and Option 2 violates Article 17 of the Labor Standards Act, which stipulates Employers cannot pay an advance as a loan on condition that those wages will be offset by future labor.

Astonishingly, Shane Eikaiwa told teachers that if they refused to choose either option, they would automatically get stuck with Option 1. Employees end up being strong-armed into choosing one of these two options.

The members of Tozen Union’s Shane local rejected both options. Many members reran employee rep elections at their schools and told management they refuse and reject any deduction from their wages.
Management continues to refuse to conclude a rodo kyoyaku collective bargaining agreement over corona wages and work schedules.

Today, school counselors and instructors – the workers at Shane Eikaiwa stood up and prosecuted a major strike.

Recently, Yahoo News ran a piece on Shane Eikaiwa by well-known journalist and commentator Haruki Konno. The article was retweeted over 700 times, including by Shane students as well as those who want to take action to change things for instructors.
Outraged teachers strike after Shane says corona furlough pay was a ‘loan’

Countless unresolved issues between Shane Eikaiwa and the union remain, but what we must fight now is what is right in front of us – the next pay day on August 15.















休業手当は「借金」だった? シェーン英会話講師が怒りのストライキ












Japan Times staff strike over layoffs

Tozen Union and its Japan Times General Workers Union (JTGWU) chapter took strike action Wednesday as the paper threatened to lay off 39 staff, one third of the company’s workforce.

Negotiations had broken down after management failed to justify the necessity of the layoffs.

JTGWU fears the cuts will make The Japan Times unable to function as a news organization. Such irreparable damage to the 123-year-old institution would come at a time when its coverage, including that of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, is more important than ever. 

These cuts follow a voluntary redundancy program in spring 2020 that significantly reduced the newspaper’s workforce. JTGWU has 16 members, representing staff from across The Japan Times. The union set a July 17 deadline and implored The Japan Times’ management to postpone the layoffs for a month to give both parties enough time to negotiate. Management refused, preferring instead to rush through the mass layoff.

Gerome Rothman, Tozen organizer and the local’s case officer, said, “We’re shocked. The Japan Times and Tozen Union have a history of excellent labor relations.

“In Japan, an employer has the responsibility to do everything in its power to avoid even one layoff. Instead, The Japan Times has chosen to violate social norms, unilaterally deciding to turn a third of the company out into the street in the middle of a pandemic.”

Chris Russell, president of JTGWU, said, “Every member of the local is dedicated to the long-term success of The Japan Times. We believe that this success is, and will continue to be, driven by the company’s talented staff. It’s a major disappointment that the company doesn’t feel the same basic commitment to its employees, particularly given the excellent COVID-19 coverage everyone has produced in the past half year.”

Jane Kitagawa, an editor and writer, said, “Union members are upset that they have been forced into this position. They think the company has made a terrible decision to implement layoffs that are not in the best interests of the company, its readership or its staff.”

Media Contact:
Gerome Rothman
Tozen Union
Japan Times General Workers Union case officer

山本太郎から東ゼン労働組合への手紙 Letter from Yamamoto Taro to Tozen Union


Comrades of Tozen Union:  

I am Taro Yamamoto of the Reiwa Shinsen-Gumi. 


  You have given our political party so much passionate support on a near daily basis. Let me take this opportunity to express my heartfelt appreciation. Thank you. 


The novel coronavirus delayed your decennial convention and forced it online, reflecting, I think, the dire economic straights we find ourselves in, with the spread of the coronavirus not yet brought under control. Thank you for inviting me today, but I must apologize that party responsibilities prevent me from attending.  


   Tozen Union has many foreign language teachers and workers from overseas. I understand that you have done everything possible to help those who have lost their jobs to corona, are struggling to make ends meet, and cannot afford rent and loan payments. Workers in the age of corona must completely avoid sanmitsu – the three types of congestive environments: close contact, crowds, and poorly ventilated spaces. Foreign workers must have proper information on Japan’s kyugyo te-ate furlough allowance system, paid leave, and shobyo te-ate sick leave support, all provided in their native languages. 


With the impact of the novel coronavirus, 42% of foreigners said they need explanations of “government aid programs” more than any other information, according to a poll by a private company. This topped information on health and the coronavirus, cited by 32% of respondents. Aid programs abound; eligibility requirements are labyrinthian; but your union moves quickly to provide support those who encounter countless legal restrictions on their lives in Japan. The existence of your union is extremely important. 


 To improve working environments and conditions, we must raise the minimum wage. We must make the government set a national unified minimum hourly wage of 1,500 yen, as an economic policy to ensure job security. 


 On April 6, national party Reiwa Shinsengumi urged the government to cover workers’ wages, waive premium payments for Shakai Hoken health and pension, and to provide a moratorium on loan payments.  



  Although we have little political power, we are building a growing movement with all our comrades at Tozen Union. Please continue to share with us your wisdom and guidance. I, Taro Yamamoto, leader of Reiwa Shinsengumi, leave you with a heartfelt message of solidarity, wishing all Tozen Union members further success, health and happiness.   


8 July 2020 


Reiwa Shinsengumi 

                            代表 山本 太郎 

Leader Taro Yamamoto 

シェーン英会話の労働紛争に関する記事 Articles on Labour Dispute with Shane English School

先日東ゼン労組シェーン支部が行った大規模ストライキや、労働紛争について、Shingetsu News AgencyとYahooニュースで取り上げられました。

English article by Shingetsu News Agency

Shane Workers Union’s recent strikes

You might have thought the Shane Workers Union (SWU) had gone quiet, or weren’t doing much over the lockdown, but the members were all quite active. Meetings went from a monthly thing to an almost weekly activity, and the fire in the members hearts was burning and growing.

The members were angry at Shane’s lack of decent guidance during the pandemic and angry at management’s refusal of collective bargaining(CB). The anger increased further when – after two months of refusal – management eventually met the union for CB on 15th June 2020, and offered little in the way of negotiation. The company even claimed that they didn’t even know the legal classification of the pay they gave us during the April and May lockdown.

Shane had decided that during the lockdown they would pay the workers 100% of their salary (woohoo!) as an advance (boo!) on future work. This goes against Article 17 of the Labour Standards Act, “Pay shall not be made for advanced work” and against the government’s appeals to employers to pay workers a full furlough. The government is providing financial assistance to employers to cover the costs of furloughing employees.

As the lockdown ended, the company stated that workers would have to make up 30+ days of work for free. To do this, the company unilaterally changed the working calendar with no negotiation with, or consent from, the workers, changing both training days and paid leave days to working days. This meant most workers would lose most of their holidays.

Shane also decided that the company would reclaim wages from the counselors (receptionists), horrifying them and teachers.  The union did what we could to help counselors and want to do more.

As the new working days that were once training days and holidays approached, workers became agitated and angry at the exploitation.
The week leading up to one of the first new working days Saturday, June 27th was filled with discussion and talks of how teachers could stop their work being exploited, and ourthe main response was “withhold your labour.”
This must have hit a certain spot with people, as on Thursday 25th June, 9 people took strike action, with 3 people joining the union through the strike.

These new members and older ones continued to respond to other workers’ frustrations at the company’s changes to the work calendar, by suggesting that they also take action.

The company sent out an “Agreement on Planned Paid Leave Addendum” for workplace representatives to sign on Friday 26th June. This addendum stated that the company would be able to change the paid leave schedule with 7 days notice, and that the company and employees would have to comply with the changes.
It meant that the company wanted the ability to change annual paid leave with no negotiation. Teachers were furious. 

All day Friday, Orren (President of the SWU) and Mizuho (Case Officer for the SWU) received strike proposals, some from old members and some from new recruits.
This culminated in an action on Saturday 27th June 2020 with 23 people striking across the company, including 11 people joining the union through strike action.

On Monday 29th June 2020, the company sent out a message with two options from which each teacher must choose. This circumvented any negotiation with the union:

  1. Go back to the old calendar, but pay back over 40% of your wages, and count the previous pay as a furlough.
  2. Continue with the new calendar, and keep 100% of what has already been paid, however ½ of the make-up days would be cut.

The SWU’s #1 strike demand at the moment is that the company furlough its workers during the lockdown at 100% with no obligation to make up the days.
So we cannot accept either of these offers, and the fight will continue.

In the letter containing the 2 proposed options, the company acknowledges Article 17 and Article 26 of the Labour Standards Act. They mention that Article 17 states that salary cannot be paid in advance, but say nothing else about it. Despite this being the action that Shane took.

Shane misrepresents Article 26 and makes it sound like they would have had to pay only 60% as a furlough, not that they would have had to pay at least 60%. They also claimed that paying 60% might have caused “severe financial difficulties” for staff, never letting slip that 60% is the minimum, or that the government offered Payroll Protection Program assistance to companies that furloughed their employees.

On Tuesday 30th of June, we managed another large strike action of 19 people, with one teacher joining the union through strike action. More schools closed for the day.

Today, on Wednesday 1st of July, we had our 2nd largest strike yet, with 22 people striking, 4 of which joined through striking. Once again, the company was unable to cover all of the strikers.

These large strike actions have doubled the size of the union, and all new members seem very motivated about how they can help the union going forwards to realise the demands.

The hard work of everyone over the past week has been incredible to see. It amazes what people can do when they unite for a cause.

The Shane Workers Union is not anti-company. We are not anti-work. We love our work. We just want to make this a workplace that everyone can be proud of. We look forward to negotiating with the company in the future.