Serious Repression against Kan’nama and the Industrial Unionism : Seminar Report

The General Union adopted a special resolution to support the Kansai District Ready-Mixed Concrete Branch of the All Japan Construction and Transport Workers Solidarity Union (more commonly referred to as Kan'nama) at the AGM in May and has been participating in various activities to support this union against unprecedented attacks.

On July 20, we held a seminar to further deepen our understanding of the union's history and activities, and the reasons and background of this assault on union rights.
Accepting our request, Mr.Youichi Take, the General Secretary of the union came to our office as a speaker. Aaron Bucky, an Executive Committee member of General Union took the role of a translator.
In the seminar, reports, questions and answers continued for one and a half hours without a break.
Mr. Yoichi Take's reports and answers to questions were all clear and concrete.

Below are the contents of this seminar.  

 

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1. Outline of ready-mixed concrete industry and the basic policy of Kan’nama

The flow of work of ready-mixed concrete industry is as follows;

Ready-mixed concrete companies which are the overwhelming majority among companies in the same industry purchases the materials from a cement manufacturer, a big company. Then, it manufactures the ready-mixed concrete in the factory and concrete mixer truck drivers deliver it to a general construction company’s construction site. The general construction company is also a big company.
Therefore, in order to protect and improve the livelihood of workers in this industry, the main agenda for the union has been to organize small ready-mixed concrete companies, the overwhelming majority of the companies in this industry into co-operatives, and to deal with big cement companies and big general construction companies for the “democratization of industry” by optimizing purchase prices and sales prices.

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2. Achievements of the movement and policies towards the cooperatives and ready-mixed concrete companies

The developments in organizing cooperatives and the democratization of the industry through it have led to significant results. The ratio of organizing cooperatives reached as high as 99% in Kansai and the selling price was also rationalized. It created the financial resources to improve wages and working conditions of workers in this industry.
At the same time, the union imposes penalties for companies that violate the legal rights of unions and union members, not only to recover from the real damage but also to show that it is expensive to attempt to buster the union.

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3. Reasons for the progress and its costs

Kan’nama has made such progress by conducting its activities not as a company-based union but as an industrial one always keeping its eyes on the whole industry.
As its activities have been confronting major cement companies and major construction companies, Kan’nama has repeatedly been faced with brutal attacks. In the history of the union, two members were killed by yakuza members hired by companies and current Chair has experienced threats to his life several times.

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4. The situation of ongoing serious repression, its techniques and the reasons

The ongoing serious repression started when some of the cooperatives decided to break their promises to the union and to try to monopolize all the results acquired by the cooperation with the union. They hired a large number of former prosecutors to deal with the union, and have repeatedly arrested, detained, and prosecuted union members by declaring every legitimate daily activities of the union " extortion, coercion and forcible obstruction of business." As of July 20th, 2019, more than 80 members have been arrested and 13 are still detained.
Compliance activities, in which a couple of union members visit a worksite to check legal compliance has been declared “attempted extortion”. Leafletting has been declared “forcible obstruction of business”. Asking an employer to issue a “Certificate of Employment” a necessary procedure for a union member’s child to enter a nursery school has been declared “attempted coercion”. Such things have been going on.
The Chair of the union has been repeatedly arrested, detained, re-arrested, and detained, and has been detained for nearly a year.
Why?
The answer lies in the union’s basic policy of "Democratization of industry" mentioned above. In order to improve the status of workers in this industry, this policy itself is trying to change the current “system” of multi-layered exploitation and control, with the major cement manufacturers and construction companies at the top and the workers at the bottom – where very few people dominate the vast majority. It would be fine if the union accepted this system and asked for "improvement" within that framework. However, it would never be allowed if anyone tries to touch the system itself – Here exists the heart of this ongoing repression.

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5. The future

In fact, the oppressing side knows that "it is impossible to crush Kan’nama totally". They hope to weaken the union as much as possible in order to postpone the democratization of the industry."
Union's morale has not diminished at all. The Chair and the union members in detention are also fine.
After all, Kan’nama’s movement continues to move forward.
Continued support is appreciated.

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We had a very meaningful seminar.
Many thanks to Mr.Youichi Take, General Secretary of Kan’nama!


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