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Japan, community labor union movement

Edson I. Urano

Subject Social History » Labor History
Sociology » Social Movements

Place Eastern Asia » Japan

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

Key-Topics labor movements, labor unions, representation, rights

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405197953.2009.00820.x


Enterprise unions are functionally “adjusted” to the productionist and enterprise-centered characteristics of Japanese society, with both core enterprises and regular workers as the pillars of the social system. The emergence and hegemony of this type of union has effectively resulted in the exclusion of marginal workers, such as part-timers, temporary workers, and foreign workers, from the labor movement. In this context, Japanese community unions are meaningful organizations which function as alternatives to the mainstream labor movement. Despite their numerical irrelevance, their link to the progressive social movements of the past, their combativeness, and their inclusive role on the unionization of minorities and atypical workers make them of major relevance as a sociological phenomenon. In many ways, community unions are the antithesis of enterprise unions. While enterprise unions organize workers through union shop agreements, community unions promote unionization through individual membership, focusing on specific niches, occupations, and the identities of local communities. Categories such as gender, ethnicity, and employment patterns frequently serve as criteria for the unionization of workers and the determination of union strategies. For example, the Women's Union Tokyo, founded in 1995, is mainly focused on women's labor rights and the abolition of sexual discrimination. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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