Berlitz Striking Teachers Make History

The Berlitz General Union Tokyo (Begunto, a local of Nambu) maintained and expanded its 2007 shunto strike during this year’s shunto, focusing on two demands: a 4.6% across-the-boards base pay hike and a one month bonus.

Nearly half of all 46 Berlitz schools in the Kanto plain have been hit by walkouts since the dispute began last December. Over 55 teachers have joined in the time-fixed, volunteer strikes, making it by many accounts the largest enduring work stoppage in the history of Japan’s language industry.

“What we have discovered to our surprise and delight and to management’s chagrin is that many employees are joining the union just to participate in the strike,” said Begunto case officer Louis Carlet. “The strike is the best unionizing tool we have ever had.”

Another crucial point is that while most language school labor disputes aim to maintain or protect working conditions or employment, this strike is “aggressive rather than defensive in that we are fighting for a raise,” notes Begunto Vice President Catherine Campbell.

The union has also held several rowdy, boisterous pickets at several schools around the region, even at non-striking schools, urging coworkers to do the right thing. Check out a video of one such action:

Jack London’s scathing “definition of a scab” also hangs on the union board at most Kanto schools. Finally, some Kanagawa strikers created a rap song specifically about our 2008 shunto fight: