Arrival in Tokyo: Anti-G8 activities, local labor struggles, and sightseeing
by Diane Krauthamer
After approximately 22 hours of travel, I made it to Tokyo and was greeted immediately by Noiz from the All Freeters Union. We rode the subway directly to the social centre where many of the intenational activists are gathering in preparation for the counter G8 summit, where I met with FW Sabu Kohso and Saburou from the Freeters. I also spoke with activists doing a variety of legal and media work in preparation. A few activists who will be speaking at the Counter-G8 International Forum were interrogated by immigrations, including FW David Graeber and Andrej Grubacic, Harry Halpin, Lisa Fithian and Marina Sitrin. As I am sitting in the Irregular Rhythm Asylum (infoshop), others are speaking of being stopped by police as well. Still, spirits are very high as more and more guests arrive into town for this weekend`s events.
On Thursday morning, I woke up at 6 AM and went sightseeing at the 400-year-old Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens, a beautiful area within the city with beautiful variety of plants, trees, bridges and sites of old temples. After that I strolled around Ginza, the shopping district, and found myself walking through the Sony building, looking promotional showrooms with the latest in digital technology.
Thursday night, I joined a group of about 50 people representing the Temporary Workers Union (a section of the Tokyo Union) along with the All Freeters Union to participate in a protest action against the Goodwill Group. Workers shouted outside of the comapny headquarters in Roppongi Hills, a ritzy downtown area. The protest lasted for nearly 2 hours, demanding that the company pay the backwages and hire back its temporary staff unit, who are being fired due to illegal company practices. Read the Japan Times article: "Goodwill to liquidate temp agency".
After the protest, I joined the two unions for food and drink at a nearby restaurant. We discussed the experiences of union work in our countries, and it turns out there are many similarities. It seems that pracarity is becoming more and more of a trend in Japanese labor law in the last few years, as staffing companies such as the Goodwill Group are now able to require one-day working contracts. One man from the Temporary Workers Union, Atsoshi Hinata, explained to me that such conditions essentially allow the company to make more money.
Because of our rich discussions, I am very excited to announce that the Tokyo Union invited me to give a presentation and film screening on the Starbucks Workers Union and to discuss the IWW in the U.S. The event will be at 7 PM on Friday night, located in the Shinjuku-ward. Although this event was not initially scheduled, it will be a great opportunity to build an international alliances.
On Satuday, FW Abe Greenhouse, FW Canopy Son and our comrade Nico from the French-CNT will be coming into Tokyo as well, and we will be speaking on a panel on the New International Solidarity of Labor Movement organized by No! G8 Action. We are also going to attend the Tokyo Action against Poverty, Precarious Labor and Social Exclusion I am sure there will be much more to report in the coming days.