The Japanese Federation of Textile, Garment, Chemical, Distributive and Allied Industry Workers’ Unions (UA Zensen, 1.78 million members), the largest industrial labor union affiliated with the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), is causing controversy by proposing the idea of advancing discussions on the issue of constitutional amendment, including revising Article 9 of the Constitution. Rengo-affiliated industrial labor unions differ in their levels of concern for constitutional reform, so UA Zensen’s view could create a rift within Rengo.
UA Zensen held a regular meeting from Sept. 19 to 20 in Yokohama and reported the central executive committee’s view on the Constitution. As for Article 9, the committee stipulated: “Necessary improvements should be made on the assumption of public agreement for Japan to responsibly make decisions to conduct peacekeeping activities, including the use of weapons when required.”
The report itself is not binding for member labor unions or union members. But UA Zensen’s predecessor, the Japanese Federation of Textile, Chemical, Food, Commercial, Service and General Workers’ Unions (UI Zensen), issued a report on Paragraph 2 of Article 9 in 2006 saying, “It’s necessary to remove the stipulation of “renunciation of the ability to wage war” and “renunciation of the right of belligerency” and include the possession of self-defense forces.”
A senior Rengo official says constitutional issues have been a “thorough nuisance” for Rengo because the organization was launched after pro-constitutional revision groups affiliated with the now-defunct UI Zensen and groups affiliated with the also now-defunct General Council of Trade Unions of Japan (Sohyo) that advocate upholding the current constitution reconciled their policy differences and formed a coalition after a great deal of turmoil.
The political parties that industrial labor unions support have markedly different views on the Constitution. Industrial labor unions affiliated with UI Zensen support the Democratic Party for the People (DPFP), which is positive about constitutional amendment, and those affiliated with Sohyo back the liberal Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ).
The Rengo leadership is cautious about constitutional issues as they could create a rift between industrial labor unions. In its opinion issued in June, Rengo only stated, “Hastily moving forward with discussions based on the assumption of constitutional amendment is impermissible.”
Rengo President Rikio Kozu touched on the Constitution during a press conference on Sept. 21 and said, “(Rengo), including UA Zensen, has agreed on a common view,” underscoring the “monolithic unity” of the group. But a senior Rengo official expressed concern by saying, “Touching on the Constitution will shake Rengo to its foundations.”