Labor Board Orders Oberlin U to Talk to Union

Wednesday, May 26, the Tokyo Labor Relations Commission ordered Oberlin University to hold collective bargaining with Tozen Union. Oberlin University had refused negotiations since October 2019, demanding the union exclude rank and file members.   The university had also insisted on bargaining in Japanese even though the day to day language of labor relations at the workplace is English.

The union demanded collective bargaining after Oberlin University announced it would outsource classes to a private contractor, threatening the job and income security of our members. Oberlin claimed the outsourcing was not a legitimate topic for union negotiations, a claim firmly rejected by the commission.

The union went out of its way to accommodate Oberlin.  We proposed bilingual talks with each side sharing equally in the responsibility to interpret between the two language. We also agreed to cap our bargaining team to five members if Oberlin would allow the remaining members to sit in as observers.  Oberlin refused to bargain despite this considerable concession.

Oberlin argued that they lacked the resources to accommodate our 16 members, a curious argument from a university with 10,000 students and many spacious classrooms.

The Tokyo Labor Relations Commission ordered the school to commence negotiations immediately and send an apology for refusing CB to the union within a week. It also advised Oberlin University to accept the union’s settlement proposal.  Management has two weeks to appeal the decision at the Central Labor Relations Board.

“We urge Oberlin University to negotiate with us,” said Lonnie Childress, president of Tozen’s Oberlin University chapter.  “We stand ready to build good labor relations with you.  It’s time to get started.”

For questions or comments, contact Case Officer Gerome Rothman at