In the company where I worked before, I set up a labor union. Incidentally, I set up the union without knowing what a labor union was or how to set it up at all.
You may think that this has nothing to do with feminism, but for me, it’s a very connected story. If one of the roles of feminism is to question assumptions such as “women should be charming” or “mothers should put the family first,” then it is natural to doubt about assumptions for company such as “overtime is the norm in a venture,” and “if you don’t like what the company says, you should quit.” And about the imposition of the “norm” on people, I feel like it was a natural progression to think about “Is it really so?,” “How far do workers’ rights go?”
[Work for the company? Or for yourself?]
Personally, I think it would be a good idea for any company to have a labor union. Not all unions work, and just because they exist doesn’t mean they can solve everything. However, the relationship between the company and the individual is often unbalanced, and even if you are unhappy with a change or decision made by the company, you may not have the opportunity to voice your opinion as an equal. Labor unions are legally guaranteed to allow workers to discuss such positions and opinions with their employers on an equal basis.
In the company where I worked before, there were sudden changes in employment status, changes in pay (incentives), and ambiguous rules on hours of employment, and so on, and the workers were worried about when and how they might be disadvantaged by such changes.
I myself had doubts about such changes, but I didn’t know where to go for help, and that’s what led me to think that a union would be a good place to consult and express my opinions.
[Views on Unions]
There are many sites that say starting a union is actually easy, but it’s actually quite hard. If you have two or more workers, you can start a union, but in reality, getting a majority of employees or more involved is a key factor that changes the amount of influence you have. At the time, there were probably about 70 employees who were not in management positions. I remember it was quite difficult to talk to all of them and communicate our intentions and objectives.
And the hardest part was dealing with the company. Originally, there was nothing wrong with setting up a labor union, and it was meant to improve the relationship with the company, but in reality, few companies looked good about workers setting up a union. On the surface, the company knows that it would be a legal problem to say, “We don’t need a labor union,” or “Why would you set up something like this?” So, it appears that the conversation is being amicable, but I could feel the emotions of “Why did you do that?” when I talked to them.
Moreover, I remember being very nervous because the people I was talking to were people I had never had a conversation with before, such as executives and human resources managers.
[What is a good environment to work in?]
After all, one of the things that made me think I couldn’t work for the company when I talked to the people who decide the company’s management policies and so on was when they said something like, “We want all of our employees to work in the same direction and for the company,” or something like that.
It may sound like an entirely legitimate thing to say, but the larger the organization, the more different people will be working in it. When that happens, it’s impossible for everyone to be facing the same direction. Forcing them to face the same direction is like an army, and without coercion, it seems difficult. And it is the role of so-called managers to manage and motivate people to work together, not by forcing them to look in different directions, but by managing and motivating them to work together for different reasons, and that is what they are paid a lot of money for. Forcing an individual employee to “look in the same direction as the company” feels like an abandonment of that “management job” and an oppressive disregard for diversity.
When I see diversity and inclusion as a theme or issue in many companies today, I feel that in many cases, it is fine to focus on diversity in the numbers, but in the end, the failure to manage it is blamed on the “acceptance of diversity.” People with disabilities, female managers, and multinational people are often lumped in with “diversity,” of course, but each person is a different individual and should have a different way of thinking. By accepting each person’s diverse ways of thinking without excluding them, we can create new ideas and seek new ways of thinking in society.