‘Earthquake disaster’ must not be used as pretext for having to endure hardships; we want to work and live with dignity
−2011 National Youth Assembly held in Tokyo
On October 23, about 4,800 people assembled from around the country at Tokyo’s Meiji Park for a national rally: “‘Earthquake disaster’ must not be used as the pretext for having to endure hardships; we want to work and live with dignity”. Voices calling for “stable jobs,” “lower-cost college tuition and fees,” “life without fear for radiation exposure” resounded through the park. The rally was sponsored by an organizing committee.
Participants were divided in groups in the morning to discuss various issues facing young people today, such as “temporary agency workers facing arbitrary termination of contracts” and “the minimum wage.”
MATSUYAMA Tomoyuki, the head of the youth section of the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren), declared the main session open in the afternoon.
Zenroren President DAIKOKU Sakuji spoke in solidarity with the participants.
U.S. union activist Autumn Martinez and Michael Ferritto from the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) attended the event. Martinez in her speech called for unity of action saying that the “Occupy the Wall Street” action that began in defense of workers’ rights and human rights is spreading throughout the world.
After the rally, participants marched in demonstration through Tokyo’s popular shopping districts of Harajuku, Omotesando and Aoyama.
Zenroren President Daikoku gives speech
Are you hopeful of Prime Minister NODA Yoshihiko’s government? After the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, many people have been demanding to know the plan for post-disaster reconstruction and an end to the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Disaster victims have an urgent need to rebuild their living conditions. Displaced victims wish to return to their homes as early as possible. But Prime Minister Noda is turning his back on these wishes. Its policies are even worse than those of the former government led by the Liberal Democratic and New Komeito parties. Many people are infuriated by the government’s policies. The present situation poses very serious problems. The Noda Cabinet and the financial circles are seeking to use the need to speed up post-disaster reconstruction as the pretext for making working hour and employment regulations more “flexible,” promote the use of temporary agency workers to increase profits in health care services after Japan’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.
The Occupy the Wall Street action led by young people began in New York in protest against poverty, economic inequality, and financial speculation. It is spreading to more than 80 countries. They say they no longer can tolerate the 1% making profit at the cost of the 99%.
At issue is whether we will allow large corporations and financial speculators to prey upon workers, or whether we will build up a labor movement to take a lead in the effort to break free of the crisis by raising our voices calling for protection of jobs and living conditions, and for speculative money to be controlled. We are at a crossroads.
The question is whether our country should continue with the so-called structural reform policy, which has been promoted by the government and financial circles or establish an economy governed by rules. We demand that the minimum wage be raised, that working hours shortened, and that a public contract law be enacted.
Let us oppose the plan to increase the consumption tax on the pretext of post-disaster reconstruction. Let us demand an end to the 5 percent corporate tax cut and a review of the present tax code that gives the wealthy favorable treatment in order to secure 17 trillion yen in revenue. We must oppose a consumption tax increase pursued as part of combined reform of social services and taxation. Let us continue to call for full-time regular jobs for young people, rejection of policies that undermine people’s livelihoods. Let us work to put an end to nuclear power generation and shift to renewable energy.
Contribution by Autumn Martinez, member of UE- United Electrical Radio Machine workers
Hello, Brothers and Sisters of Zenroren and Japan.
My name is Autumn Martinez. I am from Montpelier, Vermont in the United States of America. I am a proud young activist, rank and file member of UE- United Electrical Radio Machine Workers. There are 120 members in my local and 35,000 members nationally. I love my Union. I am honored to say I believe my union is the best independent, progressive democratically run union in the United States. Our Members run our union. I just had the pleasure of attending the 72ndNational Convention of our union for 5 days starting on September 25th, 2011. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought I would have the honor of standing here with you, my international brothers and sisters. For that I thank you and am truly grateful. At our Convention, our members passed many resolutions. Resolutions that call our members to work towards issues such as: International Solidarity, A Just Economy for All, Solidarity with Zenroren and the people of Japan, Health Care for All, To Organize the Unorganized, and many more. I have to say this Convention has truly inspired me, inspired me to move forward in my fight, and inspired me to fight harder for workers rights and for human rights.
As young people today we face a grim reality with many challenges ahead. Challenges such as: high unemployment, low wages, high student debt, and no pension plans, little to no healthcare, and the destruction to our natural environment, which is leading to natural disasters. You ask me what we can do. And I ask- Will you join me?
Will you join me by staying involved in current events, not only here but globally by organizing and building our unions? Join me in continuing the fight for workers rights, human rights. Join me in fighting for the right to bargain. Join me in taking political action.
Join me in rallies such as ‘Occupy Wall Street’.
‘Occupy’ is a call that has always resonated loudly in our union from the sit-downs strikes of the 1930’s and 1940’s, through the plant closings of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Occupy is exactly what we as young activists need to do.
Occupy Wall Street has not only spread nationally but globally as well. These rallies are now taking place in cities all over the world. They say there is no one message, but to me the message is clear: We will not stand by and let our very existence, our futures be threatened. We will not stand by and let corporations and the top 1% continue to profit outrageously on the backs of us, the 99%, the workers, you and I. I say we are tired and we are not gonna take it anymore. As people we only progress when we learn to sit down OR stand up - together! United!
Divided we beg, united we will stand.
Today, I ask you, brothers and sisters, will you stand and with me? United?