The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is stepping up efforts to draw closer to the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), the largest support group for the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ). The LDP plans to focus on employment policy and wage hikes, which are key for Rengo, the central organization of labor unions in Japan. The LDP also appears to aim to break up the labor vote ahead of the Upper House election to be held in the summer of 2022.
On Dec. 8, LDP Secretary-General Motegi Toshimitsu met with Rengo President Yoshino Tomoko at LDP headquarters and encouraged her, saying, “I wish you success as the first female president.” According to Rengo, it was the first meeting between an LDP executive and the Rengo president in seven or eight years since Koga Nobuaki, Yoshino’s predecessor’s predecessor, had one. On that day, Yoshino also met separately with LDP Vice-President Aso Taro. LDP Party Organization and Campaign Headquarters Chairperson Obuchi Yuko also attended both meetings.
On Dec. 15, LDP Research Commission on Employment Issues Chairperson Shionoya Ryu met with Rengo General Secretary Shimizu Hideyuki. Shionoya underscored the emphasis on economic growth and wealth distribution put forward by the Kishida Cabinet and the LDP’s intention to support Rengo’s requests.
The Labour Administration Division of the LDP Party Organization and Campaign Headquarters is responsible for ties with Rengo. Recently, however, LDP executives are actively contacting Rengo. A longtime LDP member says the move “may indicate the [LDP’s] valuing Rengo.”
Yoshino, who took the helm of Rengo in October, is consistently criticizing the election cooperation between the CDPJ and the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) and calls for the coordination of candidates between the CDPJ and the Democratic Party for the People (DPFP). She also says the [CDPJ’s] united front with the JCP “left the Rengo vote with nowhere to turn.” A senior LDP official analyzes, “The labor vote will be broken up and this will work to the LDP’s advantage in national elections provided the united front between the CDPJ and the JCP continues.”
In September, like-minded LDP members whose constituencies are home to auto factories established a “Diet members’ league of lawmakers from constituencies which are home to auto factories (headed by Upper House member Katayama Satsuki).” The group is believed to be aiming to attract auto-related labor unions, which are particularly considered to be in favor of the ruling bloc among the labor unions of private companies that keep a distance from the JCP.
In the recent Lower House election, the Federation of All Toyota Workers’ Unions, which comprises labor unions affiliated with the Toyota Motor Group, made a policy shift to cooperate with the ruling bloc in order to realize policies and did not field opposition-backed candidates from the federation.
The CDPJ is poised to take a wait-and-see attitude, with a senior CDPJ official saying, “There is no way for Rengo to fully support the ruling bloc.” But some in the LDP say, “We should break up the labor vote as much as possible.” The LDP wants to continue intensifying pressure on the CDPJ.