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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 April 22 - May 12  > Workers in online May Day rallies: Loss-of-income benefits essential during COVID-19 crisis
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2020 April 22 - May 12 TOP3 [LABOR]

Workers in online May Day rallies: Loss-of-income benefits essential during COVID-19 crisis

May 2, 2020

On May 1, the day marking 100 years since the first May Day rally took place in Japan in 1920, while large-scale rallies and parades were cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, union activists celebrated the 91st May Day through online events and other actions that abide by the social distancing rules. They demanded that the Abe government as part of its anti-corona efforts provide compensation for loss of earnings caused by its stay-at-home and business suspension requests.

The 91st May Day central rally organizing committee streamed live on the Internet a video of its gathering held at the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) head office in Tokyo.

On behalf of the organizing committee, Zenroren President Odagawa Yoshikazu delivered a speech.

Emphasizing the importance of solidarity among workers during the fight against COVID-19, Odagawa said, “Let us unite and stand up to push the government to take measures to prevent a health care collapse and strengthen the nation’s medical system. It is also necessary for us to work together to fix the distortions exposed in the ongoing coronavirus crisis.” He went on to say, “Let us urge the government to make all-out efforts to protect people’s livelihoods and businesses! Let us demand that large corporations holding huge internal reserves fulfill their social responsibility!”

The virtual May Day rally included video messages from the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), the General Confederation of Labour (CGT), the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), and the Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL).

In their messages, representatives of these unions expressed their solidarity with Japanese workers and called for joining hands to protect workers’ lives and health from the ongoing health crisis. UE President Carl Rosen expressed his support for Zenroren’s demand for government measures to compensate loss of earnings during the stay-at-home and business suspension requests. He also emphasized the need for international solidarity and cooperation. KCTU chair Kim Myeong-hwan pointed out that hit by the serious negative economic impact due to the coronavirus pandemic, the employment situation is in crisis. He stressed the need to make united efforts to protect workers from corona-related job losses.

Many unions delivered their May Day videos through social media and video streaming services. In these videos, union officers and ordinary members appeared with messages on placards to share their celebration of the 91st May Day.

The Japan Federation of Medical Workers' Unions (Iroren) uploaded a video in which members of the Iroren leadership carried signs that read “Oppose the government plan to cut the number of public hospitals!” “Gov’t should increase the number of medical and nursing-care workers!”, expressing their solidarity with medial workers combating COVID-19.

In a video delivered by the All Japan Construction, Transport, and General Workers’ Union (CGT, Kenkoro), CGT women’s section chief Kato Misako held up a placard calling for cuts in the military budget and an increase in government spending for anti-corona efforts, and said, “The government budget is too small to cope with the ongoing fight against the coronavirus. The government should use tax money to protect people’s lives, not to purchase military jets and bulldoze through the Henoko base project.”

In addition to the online May Day events, at many places in the Tokyo metropolitan area, small-scale rallies and other actions took place under the social distancing rules. These events were also streamed on the Internet. In Kanagawa Prefecture, a May Day event was held at seven locations in which union activists stood on streets with placards and expressed their demands in relays.

Past related article:
> Zenroren provides labor counseling to workers affected by coronavirus crisis [ March 11, 2020]

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