Noilly Prattle: Most Evil Corporation of the Year Award

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Most Evil Corporation of the Year Award

      Probably everyone knows about “BLACK OPS”, but have you heard about “BLACK CORPS”?

       It's the little known underbelly of corporate Japan where companies that exploit their labor force have mushroomed since the halcyon days of the lifetime employment system—the vaunted cradle to grave security offered to Japanese salarymen in the heady days of Japan's post-war recovery and economic development. Then the bubble burst leading to now going on 20 years of economic stagnation and a fractured labor market where a significant portion of a whole generation is being forced into part time, low pay, no benefits jobs. 

       This lost generation of young people are called フリーターFREETAs (involuntarily in part time jobs) and NEETs (not in education or employment or training). The nuance of these appellations is something that is undesirable. A large segment of a whole generation is adrift in a working world that has little use for them; they are as dispensable as paper diapers, scraping a living on the margins of the business world, sleeping in cheap coffin hotels or cubicles in all-night Internet cafes that don't ask too many questions or living at home off the pensions of aging parents. (There have even been incidents of family members failing to report the death of a pensioner, stashing the desiccated body in the bedroom for 30 years in one case, and continuing to collect the pension.)

       Into the breach step the “black corporations”. Companies that are happy to hire people desperate for any kind of work and abuse them in near slavery conditions. Some of these are well known companies in Japan who show their best face to the public and even establish a reputation as benevolent philanthropists. There is the case of a young woman who worked for a restaurant chain whose owner, Miki Watanabe, was honored by Forbes for his work building schools and orphanages in countries like Nepal and Cambodia. “In the same year as the Forbes honor, Mina Mori, a 26 year-old employee of one of his Watami restaurants committed suicide only two months into her employment. It was discovered that she had worked 140 hours of [unpaid] overtime in one month before her death. The incident was just recently officially declared a case of karoshi (death by overwork).” [Watami won the “Most Evil Corporation” award, by the way.]

       Her case is not unusual for people employed by black corporations. “In Japanese, the term 'black business' refers to companies who rake in huge profits while exploiting their own work force by discrimination, harassment, unpaid overtime, and short-term contracts. This type of business is a widespread problem in Japanese society but often goes undiscussed in mainstream media.”

       The issue of black corporations was brought to my attention just recently by a program on NHK television (Japan Broadcasting Company). One abused employee interviewed on the program is suing her company for abuse. She described being systematically pressured to quit after the first month of employment by her boss. He would call her into his office and verbally browbeat and abuse her for sometimes two or three hours at a time. She was smart enough to bring a tape recorder to at least one of these torture sessions to use as evidence in a court of law.

       The article on the linked website (Rocket News 24) lists the 12 most evil companies in Japan engaged in black business operations. It may come as no surprise that Tepco of Fukushima nuclear meltdown fame is on the list.

       And these are just the tip of the iceberg!

Quotes are from the linked article on the Rocket News 24 website.


Anonymous said...

are you sure you aren't talking about The US before child labor laws or the rise of the unions??

Wow...this seems beyond indecent and unbelivable that the gov't would turn a blind eye to this, especially one so seeimingly 'modern' as Japan, Joe.


Anonymous said...

I was so naive to think that this sort of thing didn't exist anywhere in the world today. (Obviously I have lived a sheltered life). In that horrible Global Politics class that I took recently we had to listen to a podcast called "Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory". The podcast detailed the deplorable treatment of workers in the factories in China that manufacture iPods, iPads, etc. for Apple. It was a real eye-opener and, I might add, one of the few assignments from that class that actually held my attention. - Michelle

Noilly Prattle said...

Oh yes, quite sure. It actually reminded me of just that, the days before child labor laws and unions. Actually union busting has been going on in the US since the Carter years and most notably with Reagan's busting of the airline traffic control unions.

As to China, Mitch, yes they do exploit their labor market as do many other Asian developing countries that produce McProducts for the cheap goods mega-outlets. I would point out, though, that cheap labor in China is probably better than they would otherwise get. Ironically it's a kind of step up for them--although exploitation by any other name is still exploitation and reprehensible.

In Japan, on the other hand, as R points out, a "seemingly 'modern'" country, the direction of the trend is going back to the bad old Dickensian days....a nasty seemingly 21st Century trend. O, brave new world indeed!