National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) 28th Regular Convention
The National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) held its 28th Regular Convention from July 28-30 in Tokyo. The event comes shortly after the political forces advocating constitutional revision occupied a two third majority in the House of Councilors.
The government led by Prime Minister ABE Shinzo is accelerating “runaway politics” on two fronts.
The convention marked the start of the new two-year movement by adopting a plan of action to win the demands and build a 1.5 million-strong Zenrorenm,.
Secretary General INOUE Hisashi proposed the “Plan of Action for 2016-2017” and other drafts, which provide the following three keynote points:
(1) All Zenroren member unions should create an upsurge in their organizing effort to expand its social influence and beginning to achieve new advances and leaps toward building a Zenroren with a membership of 1.5 million.
(2) Zenroren will promote cooperation with other organizations and movements at local levels in opposing the Abe government’s economic policy called “Abenomics”, which aims to turn Japan into a country with greater global competitiveness, and in tackling bottom-up wage increases and other tasks of defending jobs and livelihoods.
(3) Zenroren will continue to call for the repeal of the War Laws and the stepping down of the Abe government as two key demands in order to stop the moves to revise adversely the Constitution and plans to turn Japan into a country that wages war.
Regarding the effort to build stronger and larger organizations, Zenroren will come up with a four-year plan to achieve an upswing in the membership drive in all industrial and regional federations with a view to realizing a “1.5 million Zenroren”.
The Convention took place with 561 delegates attending from all member organizations.
Following the proposal of agenda items, 79 delegates spoke. Many of them expressed their confidence in the advances they have achieved in the joint struggle for the repeal of the War Laws and in a series of victories of candidates fielded jointly by opposition parties and the citizens’ movement in the recent House of Councilors election. They also spoke about their effort to win a minimum wage increase linked with reducing economic inequalities and about their campaign to increase union membership toward a 1.5 million Zenroren.
Let us go and win the demands and achieve new advances in organizing,
for a bright future of Japanese society!
We say “NO!” to adverse constitutional revision;
“NO!” to turning Japan into a country that wages war!
We seek to let the Constitution guide.
We call for solutions to the economic inequality and poverty, improvement of
living conditions from the bottom up, and revitalization of local economies.
yExcerptszZenroren Action Plan for 2016-2017
(1) In characterizing the present political situation, the decision of the Zenroren 27th Regular Convention (July 2014) said, “While the Abe government’s runaway politics on two fronts are generating more and more contradictions in Japanese society, condition for advancing people’s nationwide joint action to stop the ‘runaway politics” is increasing.” The recent political developments corroborate what we have pointed out.
As the Abe government accelerates its “runaway” politics, which in turn deepens the country’s crisis, Zenroren and its member unions are squarely facing the undemocratic policies. They have led the struggle against the security-related laws (War Laws) and on other issues by supporting joint action. The all-out organizing committee and other assemblages of forces defending the Constitution are the basis of nationwide joint action. Increasing joint action has provided a chance for many citizens and their groups to know the existence of militant unions and deepen their trust in the trade union movement. Inspired by an emergence of new movements of young people and other citizens, we have been making progress in harmony.
In the July 10 House of Councilors election, the ruling parties obtained 70 seats. That’s far more than 61 they had aimed to win in order to secure a majority of seats that were up for election at this time. As the result, the forces promoting constitutional revision won a two-third majority in the House of Councilors. Meanwhile, opposition parties’ joint candidates won in 11 out of 32 single-seat constituencies. Races in many other single-seat constituencies were very close. All this shows that cooperation between opposition parties and the citizens’ movement is the surest way to end the “runaway” politics. Zenroren and its member organizations have worked as a driving force for creating such cooperation. In the year of its 27th founding anniversary, Zenroren must fulfill its responsibility to develop the way to achieve its founding aims and ideals.
The Abe government has succeeded in filling more than two-thirds of the House of Councilors seats with forces advocating constitutional revision. It is trying to use the rare advantage to accelerate the runaway driving, creating a very serious situation that threatens the foundation of the country’s democracy. While it is necessary for all of us to share a sense of crisis and launch a fight-back fully using the capacity of organization, the further acceleration of the Abe government’s runaway politics, including the moves toward the adverse revision of the Constitution, could sharpen the contradictions with a majority of the people. This could increase the possibility of dramatic change in the correlation of forces by driving the Abe government into a corner. We need to keep in mind that the coming period of a year or two before the next House of Representatives general election is critical, as it may decide the future of Japan as well as people’s livelihoods. The task now is for us to increase close cooperation and ties based on the serious demands.
(2) The Zenroren 28th Regular Convention takes place at a time when an offensive and defensive battle is intensifying over Japan’s future course, as the “runaway” politics of the Abe government, including its moves to change the Constitution, is intensifying while public opinion, people’s joint action, and the movement in general are making steady progress. Reviewing the two years of our struggle, we will draw lessons so that we can make another progress by building on the present stage of development of joint action. We will establish a firm plan of action to force the Abe government to resign at the earliest possible time and seize a chance to make advance to a new stage of the struggle to win the demands and strengthen the unions. We take this Convention as a critical occasion to gear up to turn to a struggle to open up the bright future of Japanese society.
We will go on the offensive as we continue to fight by giving full play to the real value of the labor movement in order to open up a new era in which union members and local people can be convinced of gains. Amid an historical offensive and defensive over the Constitution, we will hold fast to the position of defending and making use of the Constitution throughout all areas of our activities and make efforts to develop multilayered work. We will work to increase joint action not only in the struggle against adverse constitutional revision and the moves to turn Japan into a country that wages war, but also in tackling the tasks of defending people’s livelihoods and jobs. We will continue to demand an increase from the bottom up and a greater support for small- and medium-sized businesses with a view to realizing a change to a sustainable and recyle-oriented local economy and society. By working on these tasks, we will make efforts to win people’s stronger trust in and ties with the Zenroren movement and increase its social influence so that we can begin to make new advances using multiplier effects of the campaign to realize the demands and increase its membership.
I. The situation surrounding our movement
II. What we have achieved since the 27th Regular Convention and our present tasks
(1) The past two years have seen public opinion and the movement surging in opposition to the Abe government’s “runaway” politics in the course of developing nationwide opinion and joint struggle for the pressing demands of people of various strata. The strenuous devotion of Zenroren and its member unions have served as a driving force for fostering nationwide joint struggle and led the movement.
In particular, the fight against the move to turn Japan into a country that wages war has thwarted the attempt to revise the Constitution, producing an upsurge of opposition to the War Laws, on a scale comparable to the 1960 struggle against the revised Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. It drove the Abe government into a corner. Zenroren played a role as a key organization in the Joint Center for the Constitution and on the All-out Action Organizing Committee. It also had its part to play in various local joint struggle organizations, contributing to advancing nationwide joint struggle.
The enactment of the War Laws did not stop our struggle. In the House of Councilors election, a broad citizens’ movement and opposition parties joined forces to field their joint candidates in all 32 single-seat constituencies. That’s an epoch-making event that Japanese constitutional politics had never had. As mentioned above, the Liberal Democratic Party led by Prime Minister Abe and its complementary forces in the recent election secured a two-third majority in the House of Councilors. At the same time, there has emerged a greater possibility of joint action between the citizens’ movement and opposition parties. MITAZONO Satoshi, supported by the anti-nuclear power forces, won the gubernatorial election in Kagoshima Prefecture, which took place on the same day as the House of Councilors election. If we can effectively use these results for further enhancing public awareness and the joint movement calling for the repeal of the War Laws and the rejection of the Abe government, we will be able to force the Abe government to step down. We will be able to change the correlation of forces to put an end to the maneuver to activate the War Laws and adversely revise the Constitution, paving the way for creating new conditions for the people to influence the nation’s politics. This is where we arrived at after strenuously carrying out the movement.
(2) We have also put up a fight against the Abe government’s neo-liberal reform policy (so-called Abenomics), which is aimed at turning Japan into the best place for multinational firms to do business. We have organized a campaign based on the urgent needs of people in all sectors and worked to help increase public awareness and cooperation. With the fallacy of “Abenomics” being laid bare and with antagonisms and divisions becoming more evident, the belief that the need now is to expand domestic demand and wage increases from the bottom up is shared by the wide range of people, including conservative people.
This is why the Abe government is obliged to make some policy adjustments regarding wages, childcare, nursing care, and a number of other areas. It also had to postpone again the planned consumption tax increase to 10 percent until two and half years later. However, opposition to these measures has just begun, mainly in separate areas, and it has not grown into a national assemblage of people demanding an end to neo-liberal reform policy that aims to make Japan a globally competitive nation.
Zenroren has attached importance to raising wages from the bottom up centering on the demand for a national uniform minimum wage system and for a minimum wage no less than 1,000 yen now. It has proposed a major campaign for local revitalization, welcomed by various sectors as fresh initiatives. We must step up these efforts as a strategic task. Mainly in areas affected by economic globalization, there is the necessity and possibility of rapid development of extensive cooperation around the issues of defending livelihoods and jobs.
(3) The recent strenuous fight led by Zenroren and the progress achieved in joint action have taken the movement out of a stage of fierce struggle between Abe’s runaway politics and people’s opinion and joint action into a people’s common action to isolate the Abe government, forcing it into a defensive position. However, the Abe government, which is driven into a corner, is trying to go on the offensive calling for a revision of the Constitution. The task now is for us to isolate and force the Abe government into resignation.
We will continue to push ahead with the nationwide joint effort demanding the repeal of the War Laws, the defense of constitutionalism, and rejection of the Abe government. We are also called upon to launch an offensive to demand an end to the present economic policy totally serving the interest of large corporations. We should do this as we increase the movement based on contradictions and people’s pressing demands in all sectors. It is particularly essential to place importance to the issues of raising people’s living standards and solving income inequalities, which are the key revitalizing the Japanese economy.
(4) In the domain of organizing, we have been unable to stop the downward trend even though we have advanced joint action on various issues. We had an increase of over 100,000 members in the year ending June 2015 (101,781 for the previous year). A survey shows that Zenroren had a membershsip of 1,060,118. That’s 22,781 less than a year ago despite first signs of great efforts and progress. The number of unions newly joining Zenroren was no more than 129 (with a total membership of 1,337). We have been unable to use all possible resources produced amid expanding cooperation. Breaking this stagnation is decisive for the further Zenroren advances.
Today, there are signs of changes taking place in people’s perception of the labor movement as more young people show trust in the trade union. However, with baby boomer activists retiring and changes taking place in the industrial structure, day-to-day union activities are not very active. Workplace conditions have changed a lot. Union participation in united efforts, rallies and signature collections are weakening. We should overcome the weaknesses through winning stronger public opinion, advances in joint action, and dedicated union officers.
In order to solve this problem, we need to establish a work style centering on making efforts to strengthen the organization, spread the union members’ participation in the day-to-day movement to build up the organization, thereby generating synergism between the effort to reactivate day-to-day activities to realize the pressing demands and the effort to increase the union membership. In addition, taking advantage of the increasingly serious demands and growing inequalities and poverty under the Abe government’s economic policy known as “Abenomics”, and the deepening antagonisms and cracks in all sectors, we will further promote public awareness and joint action. We must earn the public trust in Zenroren and increase the confederation’s social influence, which in turn will help organizational buildup.
III. Keynote of the movement for 2016-2017
Recognizing the present political situation as stated above, Zenroren and its member unions must confront the Abe government’s two reckless policies. One is the policy to turn Japan into a country that wages war along with the United States, and the other the policy to turn Japan into a country with global competitiveness at the cost of working people and the purpose being to serve the interest of large corporations. In order to pave the way for new advances in the effort to realize the workers’ demands and strengthen the organization, we will maintain the following three points in connection with the action plan for 2016-2017.
Particularly at a time when the Abe government is overtly pursuing the ambition to revise the Constitution, we must stand firm for the defense and use of the Constitution and promote struggle multiply. With the three keynotes as the basis, we will further promote regional joint action to say “No to the Abe government”. We will strengthen public trust in the Zenroren movement and its ties with the public, and increase its social influence toward 2025 so that we can change the correlation of forces and build up a struggle that helps union members directly feel its results.
(1)The first thing to do in that direction is to establish a work style that places the effort to strengthen the organization in the center of all its activities as the most important key to realizing a leap in the Zenroren movement.
To this end, we will adopt a Four-Year Organizing Plan 2016-2019 for the industrial and regional federations to develop dialogue with all union members and joint action for the pressing demand. This will help strengthen people’s trust in and ties with the labor movement, increase the movement’s influence on social issues, and make it easier to generate synergism between the realization of the demands and the organizing drive. The four-year plan will also provide us with an opportunity to take a close look at the foundation of the organization and revitalize union activities in the workplace, and strenuously promote and establish day-to-day organizing efforts with union members participating.
(2)Secondly, as Abenomics, which seeks to turn Japan into a nation with global competitiveness, is accelerating the expansion of the inequality and poverty, worsening the working people’s living conditions and employment, and is exhausting local communities, it is necessary to substantially increase joint action based in the local communities. We will demand wage increase from the bottom up and deal with other important issues relating to the defense of livelihoods and employment. We particularly call for expansion of domestic demand, which is essential for Japan’s economic revitalization. We attach importance to this task as a counter to Abenomics.
We are building up a joint effort in various sectors, in the places of work, and in communities, to win wage increase from the bottom up and achieve other urgent demands. We will also pay attention to areas particularly affected by the economic globalization and Abenomics, press for an end to the neo-liberal reforms and do all we can to develop joint action calling for economic revitalization and building a recycling-based sustainable economy and society.
These efforts will focus on raising wages comprehensively from the bottom up, far-reaching improvement of support of small- and medium-sized businesses, the development of local industries, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and improvement of public services to protect people’s livelihoods. We will engage in this task by launching a major Zenroren movement with the Constitution as its basis and seek to promote a consensus while strengthening the local revitalization movement in a strategic and systematic manner. We hope this will be developed into nationwide joint action.
(3) Thirdly, while putting major emphasis on the fight to repeal the War Laws and to force the Abe government out as the immediate task, we will make every effort to stop the adverse revision of the Constitution and the turning of Japan into a country that wages war.
To this end, we will help raise the public awareness and nationwide joint action demanding the repeal of the War Laws, the defense of constitutionalism and the rejection of the Abe government, changing the correlations of forces. We will devote ourselves to resolute opposition to the moves to revise the Constitution and to the defense and utilization of the Constitution.
We will continue to increase our opposition to the strengthening of U.S. military bases in Japan, including the construction of a new base in the Henoko district of Nago City, Okinawa.
We will also promote at the community level the effort to shift the nation’s energy policy to replace nuclear power with renewable energy sources and carry out post-disaster reconstruction that gives priority to improving people’s living conditions, with a view to making society safe free of fears.
IV. Activities centering on the organization buildup and promotion of the new 4-year plan. (omitted)
V.Key objectives of the struggle to realize the demands and concrete efforts. (omitted)