By Yamaguchi Joichi
On the morning of December 22, members of the Kanagawa Headquarters of the All Japan Garrison Forces Labor Union (Zenchuro) gathered at the front gate of U.S. Army Camp Zama (Zama City and Minami Ward of Sagamihara City) and elsewhere to protest various labor issues at the base. At Camp Zama as well as at the U.S. Naval Air Facility Atsugi (Ayase City and Yamato City), some Japanese workers have experienced power harassment and not been paid.
Approximately 50 members of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), both from the Diet and the local assembly, joined Zenchuro’s protest, distributing pamphlets listing 26 known cases of wrongdoing since 2018 and calling for early resolution and compensation for the victims.
It was the third public protest aimed at addressing labor issues involving base workers. After the first protest in 2019, an agreement was reached between Zenchuro, U.S. Forces Japan, and the Ministry of Defense (MOD), which employs base workers, to establish a platform for dialogue. It has yet to be realized, however.
Various factors have contributed to frequent labor-related disputes: discrimination against Japanese workers; failure to abide by the labor contracts on the part of American supervisors; de facto abandonment of human resource offices, to which the workers would have turned for guidance; and delay in the MOD response to labor issues on the U.S. bases. The situation has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has increased the damage and prolonged the fallout from the disputes.
“The U.S. military caused the original problem. But this time, we hold MOD accountable as well, for failing to resolve the issue in a timely manner,” said Iijima Tomoyuki, chair of Zenchuro’s Kanagawa Headquarters. “In recent years, MOD has lacked capable officials working on site, and it is losing its ability to negotiate effectively with the U.S. side.”