Bar hostesses form union to combat workplace exploitation, sexual harassment

A group of women working as bar hostesses have formed their own labor union, complaining about unpaid wages and sexual harassment.

Working at so-called “kyabakura” — a portmanteau of “kyabare” (cabaret) and “kurabu” (clubs) — bars as a hostess is becoming increasingly popular among young women in Japan. However, the group, which announced the formation of the “Kyabakura Union” at a press conference at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare on Tuesday, warned hostess wannabes it’s no easy job.

After [Kyabakura Union representative Rin] Sakurai reduced the number of her workdays per week due to poor health, the bar reportedly stopped paying her. Sakurai, who had been sexually harassed by the bar manager, also found unjust payroll deductions for services she had never used, such as 3,000 yen per day for welfare expenses, and 1,500 yen for hair styling and makeup. [An] investigation revealed illegal wage deductions and falsely imposed penalties.

“Some think unpaid wages and sexual harassment are normal in the nightclub industry, but that’s not true,” says Sakurai.