Editor’s note: “S,” an organizer of nuclear workers for the Precariat Union in Tokyo, currently works at Daiichi and Daini as a subcontract worker. He spoke on March 4 to about 200 people in New York City on a panel, “Eyewitnesses to Fukushima,” sponsored by Shut Down Indian Point Now! (SDIPN!).
Eighty percent of nuclear workers in Japan are contract day laborers. Fukushima is an example of “internal colonization,” subordinate to Tokyo. Young workers are a class in Japan colonized by the rest of the country: they suffer low wages and hard work. There are no other jobs.
Eventually they will run out of people to do this work in nuclear plants. The high radiation levels mean that people can work only one to two months until they test at the maximum of 100 millisieverts (a measurement of radiation). Typically they cannot return to nuclear work for about four to five years until their radiation levels are low enough.
Just conditions would be: you work one to two months and then be compensated. But instead, workers are just let go. Another concern is that there are fewer and fewer skilled and experienced nuclear workers. Our union is called “Precariat” because many other workers depend on these people. There is no healthcare, especially down the road. We are treated as disposable objects, expected to die soon, so we are worked as slaves.
In the fear and panic after the tsunami in 2011, the discourse was that radiation hits everyone equally. But it is actually concentrated on the poor. The rich can flee the area and have better chances at uncontaminated food. Poverty, nuclear war, and these reactors are intimately related. The government has not taken up the cause of the workers.
The anti-nuclear movement addresses some crucial issues, like class discrimination, but it is marginalized. The anti-nuclear movement must also address migrant workers, Koreans and the homeless. Power plant workers are largely minorities, including Koreans.
In the worst cases some in this movement have worked with ultra-right groups. Some hate groups have been accepted by the anti-nuclear movement and have tried to gain momentum for their agenda.
I stand in solidarity with the workers and their demands for healthcare, decent jobs with good pay, safety and dignity in the workplace.