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Think ‘white South Africa,’ not ‘Black Ships’; in unions’ defense

Japan must play by the rules

Re: Edward Moreno’s letter “Bring back the Black Ships?” (Have Your Say, Oct. 2) in response to “Our mixed-race children deserve better than this, so why bother with Japan?” by Colin P.A. Jones (Zeit Gist, Sept. 4):

Moreno is right about one thing, in that he certainly is confused.

The issue is one of reciprocity, not of “extraterritoriality.” Citizens of Western countries have to abide by custody decisions made by Japanese courts, so the only “privileges” are those taken unilaterally by the Japanese government and judiciary in upholding the right of every ethnic Japanese citizen to break the laws of every other country by abducting their children in violation of custody agreements. With a basic grasp of common sense, it shouldn’t be too difficult to see who it is that is really saying, “We are so special.”

The reason I used the word “ethnic” above is that things tend to be decided on the basis of race in Japan, and naturalization does not necessarily confer all the benefits it should. In this sense, the apt comparison might be “white South Africa” rather than “Black Ships.”

As for the “national treasure” Donald Keene, he really should be given the Purple Heart for having the courage to move to Japan after his retirement! If he’d settled here in his prime, the universities of the “host country” would likely have shown him “the apex of graciousness” by employing him on a temporary basis as an English teacher. They would have given him a megaphone, an hourly wage and the most delinquent classes to teach, whilst his Japanese colleagues would teach the students who wanted to learn. He would have a temporary contract, renewable every three years at the same or lower pay if he was lucky, and certainly no prospect of tenure. How brave he was to stay in America, and then to retire here to a massive fanfare!

I don’t know what Moreno thinks the world has to thank Japan for particularly. It’s a country, so why doesn’t it count as a country like any other? And while Western fans of manga and scantily clad schoolgirls may feel they owe a deep debt of gratitude, the so-called comfort women, along with other victims of Japan’s imperialism, have no reason to feel the same way.

What we see once more with Moreno’s letter is the effect of “ethnic studies” in Western countries — studies that replace equality with “more equal than others” and reason with blind dogma.

JIM MAKIN
Chiba

A world without labor unions

Re: “The Berlitz labor cartel” (Have Your Say, Sept. 25), a response to “With Berlitz beaten but not bowed, union fights on” by Patrick Budmar (Zeit Gist, Sept. 4):

The writer of this is someone who has withheld their name for good reason. Everything he or she wrote is spot off.

The suggestion that the union “chose to hold the company hostage rather than to leave and find a better offer” displays a misunderstanding of unions’ role in the workplace and in society.

A union is the only way for both parties (employers and employees) to negotiate on equal standing. If there were no unions, what would be the result?

We need not imagine. Let’s take a look at history, before unions fought for us. There was no minimum wage, no pension, no insurance, long hours, and brutal child labor was the norm. Those children were “free to work somewhere else,” as the author says.

It was the union movement that won us a minimum wage, pensions, health care, labor rights (including the right to strike) and abolished child labor. It is the right of the people to form unions and negotiate collectively with their employers. Their fight helps all of us, not just their coworkers.

The author calls it “the Berlitz labor cartel” but missed the fact that firms operate as cartels on many occasions. Consider price-fixing among automakers in Japan. NTN Corp. (www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nb20120518b2.html) was found guilty of price-fixing. Toshiba recently paid $30 million to settle a price-fixing suit in the U.S. This is cartel behavior, not collectively demanding a pay increase and open-ended employment.

All workers have the right to strike. If midway through a meal, the waiter took my food and asked me to pay more, I would inform him that it’s management that sets prices, not customers. Also, strikers do not get paid during the period they are striking, so the analogy is false.

If my waiter went on strike, I would happily miss my meal in order to join them in asking management to increase prices so the workers are better paid.

AMJID ALAM
Executive President, Tozen (Zenkoku Ippan Tokyo General Union) ALTs Union

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