The Greenlist of English Schools in Japan

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Do Teachers Unions do more harm than good in Japan?

Robert Burns 1921-2007, My father

One percent of Americans claim they have been abducted by
aliens--(according to MIT, the famous institute of technology.)

That is a staggering number of Americans--well over
2 million people! Do you believe them?

If you don`t believe that aliens are flying around
and beaming up Aunt Martha and Uncle Harry,
you have to wonder what is happening here?

What the heck is going on?

You have to wonder about whether the hype that many
English schools are bad, that is promoted on the
internet forums, is not simply a way to try to get
more union members.

If things were so bad, don`t you think people would
be crazy to come to Japan and teach at English schools?

Yet thousands do every year and thousands stay for 2 to three
years. What is happening here? Are things really that bad?

The unions will tell you there are hundreds of complaints about
English schools every year. How many are valid? What percentage?
What percentage is simply whining?

What percentage of these people are suited to be English teachers?

What percentage complained about their employers back home?

about Japanese food? about Japanese people? about the weather?

What percentage of these complaints is from teachers who are suffering
from culture shock?

-from partial nervous breakdowns? (as happened with a teacher I know).

As a young man and being rather left wing, I scoffed at the suggestion that unions were not all good. My father pointed out how they can try to intimidate employees to get their way.

Being young and inexperienced, I refused to believe him, but it seems to be true. In spite of the hype, unions are not always good for you and don`t always do what`s best for you. Even if they think they do.

Some unions are great and represent their members well. Others are not.


One of the reasons I enjoy teaching at my English school is because of the stress-free environment. But that relaxed feeling has recently changed. This has occurred not because of the students, the management, the company or the location. Surprisingly, the dissent among instructors is due to the new teachers union, which has created a hostile workplace. And as if erecting barriers between coworkers isn`t enough, the union is damaging the entire English-teaching profession here in Japan.


--Joseph Barker, is an English teacher in Japan

Originally published in Metropolis Magazine

Wow! Strong words from Joseph Barker (a pseudonym). I have never had problems with unions myself. In my case, when I have been a member, I think on the whole I was represented well. I sympathize with unions on the whole, being rather left in bent, but I also have come to sympathize with managers, having been one myself now for nearly 20 years. I think if you are working for a company that is not fair, having a teaching union available to back you up in case of a grievance, is a great asset.

However, you need to ask yourself if the union works for your best interest. Every school is different. Some employers are very good--very fair. If your employer is one of the kind ones, is it worth it to join a union?

Can there be potential problems as alluded to in the above quote? Unions can sometimes lead you astray.

Sometimes what unions do in the spirit of improving the situation of the employee, ends up backfiring and hurting the teachers, as the actions of the union, incur unimagined consequences.


I don`t understand how unions can say that they are fighting for all teachers` rights while encouraging union members to bully non-union workers.

"--Joseph Barker again, in Metropolis Magazine

The above is what my father was warning me about. He had been a member of a union while working in an airplane factory. Unions often feel they know best, which doesn`t necessarily agree with how you feel about things.

"Our union representative posted a bulletin in our teachers`room stating that instructors who covered a striking teacher`s shift were betraying their family, their country, and even their God. The newsletter compared so-called "scabs" with Judas Iscariot, betrayer of Jesus."

--Joseph Barker, in Metropolis Magazine

Indeed some unions can be just as bad or worse than undesirable employers. Unions the world over have gone to extremes for their cause.

And is it your cause though? You need to answer that for yourself. If it is, then join the union.

In certain instances, I would think joining a union would be a great idea. But you need to decide for yourself.

A good union should never bully you to join it. It should have the integrity and respect of the employees, and workers join because of that respect for the well earned reputation.

So refuse to be bullied. But decide for yourself.

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