We are all Humans! Brothers! Companions!

―Christian May Day Rally 2017―

Yanagawa Tomoki
Jesuit Social Center staff

  On April 29 every year, a convenient day before the feast of St. Joseph the Worker (assigned to May Day May 1), a Christian May Day rally takes place. The appeal of the rally held in Tokyo this year was “human life and work.” At the beginning, two speakers, focusing on the situation of migrants and non-regular workers, lectured on the theme “We are all Humans! Brothers! Companions! ” At the end of the rally, participants offered prayers for worker solidarity.

  The first speaker, Mr Torii Ippei, representative director of the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (Ijuuren), spoke about Japan’s history of accepting migrant workers in the 1980s and allowing people to overstay their visa. Later in the 1990s Japan brought in workers of Nikkei origin. Nevertheless, the Japanese government continually avoids use of the expression “immigration policy” and has been treating foreigners not as workers but as a working force that can be dispensed with after use. The most representative of all is the “Technical Intern Training Programs.” Using the excuse of technology transfer and international contribution, the reality, in fact, is that this has become a hotbed of serious human rights violations no matter how one looks at it.

  Thus, facing up to the fact that our society cannot survive without the existence of migrants, Mr Torii appealed for an “integral migrant policy” aiming at a multi-racial and multi-cultural society of people living together with equal labor-management principles guaranteed for all workers.

  The next speaker was Ms Niita Noriko, lecturer at several universities and visiting researcher. She mentioned that in the 1990s, when the expressions “Freeter (job-hopping part-time worker) and NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training)” were used even by officials, there was a strong trend to consider issues of employment of young people the responsibility of the young people themselves. Such thinking was reflected in the legal system, with the result that, while private responsibility and burdens increased, workers became more divided.

  Under such circumstances, Ms Niita, putting herself in the position of young people, women, fixed-term and non-regular workers, focused her attention on the possibility of community unions. Community unions function as a place where privately applying workers can have contact with a labor union and find companions so as not to become isolated. Each one can actively participate in the activities of the union.

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