From WEEKLY MDS No.1020, February 1, 2008 issue

January 20 NO! TO POVERTY Action

On January 20, young people took to street in Tokyo and Osaka concurrently, calling out, "No to poverty! Yes to a social change!" This action was planed and staged by the Alternative to Poverty Youth Network collecting signatures for a petition for raising the minimum hourly wage to ¥1,200.

In Tokyo - Performing for hope of the working poor

demonstration in Tokyo

In front of the Kamata Station surrounded by numerous Internet cafes accommodating young day workers, banners were swirling in the cold wind, showing slogans, "Let us live like a human" and "As Article 25 of the Constitution says, give us a wholesome and cultured living."

About 30 youngsters joined from Getto-no-Hana Musical Company and Tokyo Metropolitan Nakama (Fellows) Union besides the Youth Network. Also, plaintiffs fighting for cancellation of unfair dismissals of Japan Railway unionists in a lawsuit against the JRCC (Japan Railway Construction Public Corporation) came for cheering from the site of a sit-in, which started on January 16, in front of the Tokyo District Court building.

This action included an appeal to the signature campaign, sale of "Minimum 1200" badges, and appeal to pedestrians with slogans, "No to poverty! Let's change the society!"

The musical company gave an e eye-catching performance. They showed a scene from their musical show "Declaration of Hope for the Working Poor" to be publicly performed on February 23 in Osaka and on 24 in Tokyo. Their original songs featuring the reality of young non-regular workers attracted many pedestrians to stop and listen.

A representative of the Youth Network appealed, "We want stable employment and pay so we can live on our own and plan for the future. To that end among other things, we demand the minimum wage to be raised to the international standard of ¥1,200 or more." As part of the success of the action, they collected 39 signatures.

The JRCC lawsuit plaintiffs called to passers-by saying, "Our Constitution advocates peace and human rights. But constitutional compliance cannot be secured if we stay silent. Let's not give up. Instead let's speak up and do whatever we should do. Why don't we stand up together and let them hear our voices?"

After the appeal in front of the station, a demonstration was waged around the area. With the banner carrying the slogan for the minimum wage of ¥1,200, participants walked putting up placards with slogans, "No to Day Worker Dispatch!" and "Poverty - Not Self-Responsibility Issue!"

To the call leader's "What is a minimum wage above the poverty line?" participants responded, "1,200 yen!" and to "What do we want?" their voices sounded loud saying, "Security of the right to live!"

Some youngsters joined on the spot. In a closing rally, one of them spoke up, "I am also in a situation like the working poor. I have joined today to express my feelings. This action has made me reconfirm the importance of speaking up."

In Osaka - Embedding anger in human letters

demonstration in Osaka

On the same day, there was an action in Osaka as well. "Never Tolerate Spread of Poverty! Human Letters and Demonstration" was initiated by the Alternative to Poverty Youth Network, Nakama Union and Getto-no-Hana Musical Company.

About 80 participants having arrived at the Ogimachi Park formed human letters in to the number 1200, putting up placard over their heads, which read "Minimize Military Budget! Eliminate Poverty!" This human number was an expression of the anger from deprived living of each participant.

YOSHIOKA Chikara fighting against dismissal by Matsushita Plasma Display Co., Ltd. appealed, "I have been fighting with a thought that it is a problem for all the young. Just like I have experienced, companies are frequently resorting to short-term dismissal of employees under direct contract. We must eradicate such practices against social justice."

KAWACHIYA Osamu, vision-impaired, made an appeal with anger toward employment-related discrimination against the disabled, saying, "Our job hunting always ends up with refusal at the door. I also want to live with others in this society. I see no excuse for driving us away. If the government has money to waste for refueling to US and UK warships in the Indian Ocean, they should use that money to establish measures for employment. Give us a civilized living."

Next action planned on March 20

The demonstration encountered rain on the way. Nevertheless, it made passers-by look back and listen to their chants, "No to spread of poverty! No to destruction of living! No to destruction of fair labor!" and "Raise the minimum wage to ¥1,200 or more!"

A female participant who joined action for the first time said, "I came because it seemed interesting. The voices full of vitality must have reached to all. Although I cannot tell what I can demand at the company I work for, I hope this small movement will grow." A male participant, a worker of a temporary employment agency, agrees, saying, "Today's appeal is what worker has in mind. Even though future improvement is not so certain, we must continue to tackle the issue of welfare firmly. I will join again in coming opportunities."

As for the next action, an appeal was made to join the March 20 International Joint Action.

Weekly MDS