On Friday, May 26 four unfairly dismissed instructors, one supportive husband, and two General Union office staff made their way to Brighton House English School in Nishio City, Aichi, wielding A2 sized protest signs and fliers for a good old fashioned picket. The two hours-long protest sent a strong message to the company but also reminded us that protests are not necessarily tense standoffs. In fact, they can be heartwarming moments, especially when former students and their parents shower mistreated workers with support.
This was the first protest action performed in our fight with Brighton House English School. It comes after months of collective bargaining and an unfair labour practice suit lodged to rectify the company’s abrupt dismissal of all of its union-affiliated workers, including one employee on a permanent contract. Earlier in the week, GU and Brighton House’s CEO met for a hearing at the Osaka Labour Commission, in which the school’s representative incredibly asked officials to push the next hearing all the back to August and even move the location of the hearing to Aichi for his convenience.
Almost anyone would be worried about protesting in public, especially under the scrutiny of your former boss and coworkers. However, our protest experiences with various companies are rarely stressful. They are often festive and rewarding. This is because of the unique spot that teachers fill: particularly if you are a good, well-liked children’s instructor, they will let you know it when they see you.
On Friday, our teachers – who chose to protest during peak hours for the school – found this out first hand when their students bee-lined to them to say hello, strike up small talk, and ask them when they are coming back to school (sadly, we had to dodge that last question). There were points during the protest when it almost looked as if a picnic was being held in front of the school and union members had to diligently corral kids out of the way of passersby. Parents driving by to pick up or drop off their children also slowed down to say hello, ask what the protest was about, and take fliers explaining what our fight is about. The cherry on top of the experience was when some comradely students handed our earnest activists candy to keep their energy up while on the picket line.
Protests and strikes are serious, impactful actions which require forethought and rock-solid commitment – but they don’t have to be a drag. You workers are the reason that clients come. Be proud and confident about that.
General Union fights for its members through any means necessary. If you are having problems at your work, request a consultation HERE.