Gaba signs historic strike-rights deal with Union

  On Dec. 14, 2022, Tozen Union, Gaba Workers Union and Gaba Corporation signed a deal recognizing the right of Gaba teachers to strike for better conditions, a long-running point of dispute in the Tokyo and National Labor Commissions. 

(Yosuke Ishii signed for management, while Musashi Sakazaki and Louis Carlet signed on behalf of the union.)

Bread & Roses: Labor Commission Grants Rights to Uber Eats Union

SNA (Tokyo) — US President Joe Biden ensured that December 2, 2022, will go down as a dark day in the history of the US labor movement. He signed legislation that forces railway unions to accept a miserable contract, robbing them of their right to strike for better conditions. A week prior, the Tokyo Labor Relations Commission provided us a brighter day in labor history with the first ever ruling extending union rights to those engaged in work via an online platform.

The Tokyo Labor Relations Commission ruled that Uber Eats Japan’s “delivery partners” are workers and have all three trade union rights–the right to solidarity, the right to collective bargaining, and the right to strike. The commission ordered Uber Eats Japan as well as two Uber subcontractors that handle delivery driver registration, support, and education to negotiate with the Uber Eats Union in good faith.

The delivery giant registers its deliverers as individual service providers with zero protection under Japanese labor laws, including the key Labor Standards Act and Trade Union Act.

The definition of rodosha (worker or employee) differs depending on which labor law is applied, be it the Labor Standards Act, the Trade Union Act, the National Health Insurance Act, or one of many others. The definition under the Trade Union Act has the broadest scope, so many workers have union rights, but don’t enjoy wage and other rights as stipulated in the Labor Standards Act.

Article 1 of the Trade Union Act stipulates the purpose of the law–to ensure that workers can band together (“combine” in Adam Smith’s terminology) to increase their negotiating position, come to the table with employers as equals, and improve their working conditions.

The Tokyo Labor Relations Commission had to determine whether or not Uber Eats delivery partners (in Uber’s phony circumlocution) enjoy the status of rodosha and its attendant three union rights. The corporation claims that it provides the service of “matching” restaurants and those who want to order food, and thus its platform users don’t “provide labor” to the Uber Eats platform operator.

“Uber doesn’t only provide the platform to the delivery partners,” the judgement read.

The reality is that it is in many different ways involved in the completion of the delivery, and since the delivery partners must complete their deliveries under Uber oversight, it’s hard to conceive them as being nothing more than simple “customers” (platform users). We can strongly infer the possibility of assessing what they do as providing labor to Uber, which runs the business within the overall Uber Eats business.

The following labor ministry checklist, created based on previous jurisprudence, is used to determine rodosha status under the Trade Union Act:

1. The purported rodosha are integral to the business organization
2. Contracts are written unilaterally or uniformly
3. Remuneration is in exchange for labor/work
4. The purported rodosha are expected to accept orders (i.e. not really free to say no)
5. Work hours and locations are determined by the corporation, not by purported rodosha
6. The corporation takes the key risks, rewards, and decisions who does the work

In other words, courts and labor commissions have looked not only at the words written on the contract, but also at the reality of the relationship between the corporation and the purported rodosha.

The Tokyo Labor Commission ruled September 3, 2019, that language teachers working at Gaba had all three labor union rights based on the actual relationship between Gaba and teacher, despite Gaba contracts alleging that instructors are independent service providers. The commission took cognizance of the fact that both Uber Eats and Gaba set forth strict, detailed rules that their deliverers or teachers must follow, contradicting the notion that they are merely intermediaries matching up providers and users.

Gaba appealed its loss to the Central Labor Relations Commission in a case nearing its conclusion. Uber Eats is considering its options, including an appeal to the higher body.

Platform operators like Uber are growing in number, in part due to the impact of the pandemic. Whereas it does afford platform workers a degree of freedom in terms of working times and locations, the jobs inherently lack security, social insurance, and other social safety benefits. Some have called for the drafting of legislation to protect freelancers.

So far, however, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has not moved forward with policies to protect platform workers.

This ruling is a good first step, to be sure, but it should also be obvious. Corporations are increasingly turning to this model of treating working people and their labor as commodities to enrich themselves and their businesses, while taking zero responsibility for their rights, protections, or welfare.

Let us condemn this insidious corporate machination, even as we welcome this particular verdict.

This article was written by Hifumi Okunuki, and originally published by the Shingetsu News Agency (SNA).

Bread & Roses: Bosses Can’t Force Workers to Quit

SNA (Tokyo) — Kata-tataki, or taps on the shoulder, indicate a series of actions a boss takes to drive a worker to quit without outright firing them. It establishes that the subsequent contract termination is mutually agreed, as opposed to a unilateral and contestable firing. The legal jargon for such “shoulder tapping” is taishoku kansho. In this installment of Bread & Roses, I’d like to explain the practice and introduce a recent, surprising verdict in a court case over its validity.

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Shane English School must pay for unfairly firing Adam Cleeve…again

On October 19, 2022, Adam Cleeve concluded an in-court settlement with Shane English School, thereby ending a seven-year labor dispute that included him getting fired twice. 

   Adam had joined Shane Corp. in 2015 and soon joined the Tozen Union Shane Workers Union, due to his belief that all employees should unionize. He became executive president the following year. His active and effective leadership of the strike to win job security for teachers galvanized Shane management to launch a campaign to get rid of this troublemaker. 

Many employers hoping to sack a union leader look for performance issues. But students lauded Adam as a talented and reliable teacher, a fact management admitted. Shane had to find another way. 


First Firing

Adam’s daughter Luna was born in November 2016. When his wife found out she was expecting her first child, he took time off to be with her. Management used this chance to this leave by refusing to renew his one-year contract, claiming he had already taken his allotted discretionary paid leave days.

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よだかれんさん、東ゼン事務所でスピーチ / Yoda Karen gave a speech to Tozen

(日本語 / English)


On October 30, Shinjuku Ward oppositional mayoral candidate Yoda Karen took time out of her busy schedule to stop by the Tozen office in Yamabuki-cho and give a heart-warming speech to Tozen Union’s Autumn Meeting.

If she becomes mayor of Shinjuku, she will be the first transgender mayor in Japan. Let’s urge everyone to fight under the slogan a ‘Shinjuku that lifts up minority voices.’



On 13 November 2022, Yoda Karen lost the election 52,000 to 21,500.

Le responsable financier et enseignant de longue date du Tozen UPL poursuit le Lycée Français International de Tokyo devant le tribunal du district de Tokyo.

Monsieur Steven Ritchie, enseignant de longue date et responsable financier au Tozen UPL, poursuit le Lycée Français International de Tokyo devant le tribunal du district de Tokyo, pour la déduction illégale d’un jour de salaire et le refus de payer des heures supplémentaires.

Monsieur Ritchie a rempli un formulaire scolaire pour prendre son premier jour de congé personnel en 13 ans afin d’assister à la journée sportive de son enfant, cependant, Monsieur Gilles Sansebastien, ancien directeur de l’école primaire et supérieur immédiat de Monsieur Ritchie, a informé ce dernier que la “journée sportive de son fils” n’était pas une raison acceptable pour un congé payé l’obligeant a prendre un jour de congé non payé à la place.

Monsieur Ritchie a informé Monsieur Sansebastien, le directeur des finances et le proviseur de l’établissement que l’article de loi sur les normes du travail qui lui donnait le droit de prendre un jour de congé payé mais en vain.

Il ne s’agit pas d’un combat pour un seul employé mais pour tous les travailleurs du Lycée Français International de Tokyo. La direction doit suivre les lois du Japon et respecter les droits de ses employés.

Tozen UPL Finance officer and long serving teacher sues Tokyo French international school in Tokyo District court

Mr. Steven Ritchie, a long serving teacher and Finance officer in Tozen UPL is suing Lycee Francais International de Tokyo in Tokyo District Court, for the illegal deduction of a day’s pay and refusal to pay overtime.

Steven completed a school form to take his first personal day in 13 years to attend his child’s sports day.  Mr. Gilles Sansebastien, former director of the Primary school and Mr. Ritchie’s immediate supervisor, informed him that his ‘son’s Sport Day’ was not an acceptable reason for a paid holiday but he would let him take an unpaid day instead.

Mr. Ritchie informed Mr. Gilles Sansebastien, the Director of Finance, and the Headmaster of the school, of the exact article in the Labor Standards Act that gave him the right to take a paid holiday.  Regardless of this, management denied him the universal right in Japan, of taking a paid holiday.

This is not a fight for a single employee but for all the workers at Lycee Francais International de Tokyo. Management needs to follow the laws of Japan and respect the rights of its workers.

Los sindicatos de Apple crean una red de solidaridad mundial, de Maryland a Tokio pasando por Barcelona: qué demandan en España

La oleada de sindicalismo que atraviesa al sector tecnológico, especialmente en EEUU, ha copado titulares en los últimos meses. Las votaciones para formar sindicatos en almacenes de Amazon primero, y el mismo procedimiento en las tiendas de Apple después, ha llevado a diversos expertos a hablar de un fenómeno que ya cuenta con sus propios líderes.

La aparición de trabajadores organizados se da además en una encrucijada: el frágil escenario económico —que se está constatando en los resultados financieros de compañías como Google o Meta en este tercer trimestre— desatan el temor a oleadas de despidos, que algunos ya consideran inevitables.

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