May Day in Miyazaki: Labor History Survives in Japan
By Brian Small at May 01, 2009
I got a call from the local community union to participate in the Rengo Union Federations May Day. It was a beautiful day to listen to some speeches from a powerful PA system, walk through town chatting with people and enjoy lunch with a few labor members. I first discovered May Day by chance through family commitments. Gringos have to go abroad to discover their labor legacy, Chicago's haymarket martyrs bringing 8 hour work day sanity to the world. The stage and slogas were set as people came in at 10 in the morning.
The Water Services guys were the first group there, the booth for donations to support the unemployed was getting set up. I didn't get a picture of the truck for donating blood. They had various opportunities to express solidarity.
The governor makes an appearance, offers some words. He used to be on TV all the time as a comedian (well 'talent' personality) so it comes naturally to him.
As does the Mayor - touching on the increasing numbers of school children that need various forms of support to mitigate the growing number of households suffering from poverty...
The Teacher's unions were well represented. One of the read banners reiterates their promise never to send their students to battlefields again. Japanese teachers did a lot of soul searching after WWII. They're having a tough time now apparently, isolated unable to bond with the younger teachers that are overwhelmed to the point of mental suffering...
This Union Federation used to be associated with the Socialist Party, I think. The Communist Party affiliated union umbrella group has a different event. This year the two groups passed each other on Tachibana street, separated by 4 lanes of traffic.
There were two memorable placards. One for ridding the world of weapons, the other for Papa Parental Leave. I should have tried to talk with them more but I was balancing my bicycle and conversations with retired guys and community union members. There's always next year. These things tend to develop if you stay in one place, involved in the community long enough. You keep running into people, then end up doing things with them, enriching lives and maybe contributing to democracy at some point.
It's nice that this history is still alive and kicking, ready for a revival, here in Japan. The radical Znetter in me was thinking why are all the guys on stage in suits (well two towards the end looked more normal) - where are the Evo Morales kind of representatives. Why is the head of the union showing his body to the body to the governor in the local sauna? Are all the politicians up there really accountable to the rank-and-file down in the audience. Lots of questions but at least we have a May Day here.