Kuala Lumpur, 1977. The rain came down in torrents. The control tower instructed pilots to circle the airport pending better weather. The pilots had the option to divert to a nearby airport where things were quieter. Japan Airlines (JAL) was pushing its employees to cut costs, and the pilot of JAL's DC8-60 decided not to divert and to circle until the rain let up.

But the rain did not yield. The DC8-60 ran low on fuel and was forced to land come what may. Eight of the 10 crew and 26 of 29 passengers perished in the ensuing crash. This tragedy would inspire one JAL employee, Taeko Uchida, to get serious about union activism in a way that would decades later find her leading a legal and labor battle against Japan's flagship carrier.

New Year's Eve 2010. Most people were rushing around preparing for the new year. That evening, JAL, with its iconic crane trademark, sent pink slips to 165 employees — 81 pilots and 84 crew members. These women and men, who had worked for years or decades with pride and passion to keep the skies safe for JAL passengers, found themselves greeting the new year out of a job.