The Public Interest

Japan: The Legal Roots of Labor Peace

Arthur N. Waldron

Summer 1985

LABOR RELATIONS in Japan are not always as smooth as admirers of the Japanese economic miracle might think. On April 24, 1973, for instance, thousands of angry commuters rioted at 38 Tokyo metropolitan subway and railroad stations to protest an illegal work stoppage by transport unions. Threats of violence against managers, obstructive picketing, the “hitting of large drums and gongs very close to department and section chiefs.., to the extent of causing fainting spells and breathlessness’—all clearly illegal techniques in the United States—are regularly employed in Japanese strikes. The high noon of such violent confrontation occurred almost 40 years ago, in February of 1946, when a general strike against both government and management “led by public-sector unions (in cooperation with the Japanese Communist party)” probably would have succeeded had not General MacArthur intervened to stop it.

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