The 1960 Miike Coal Mine Dispute: Turning Point for Adversarial Unionism in Japan?
Thirty years ago, workers and employers in Japan confronted each other in the most intense labor-management conflict in postwar Japan-the 1960 coal mine dispute. This bitter struggle began ostensibly as a conflict over layoffs. The coal miners' union, representing 15,000 miners at Mitsui Mining's Miike collieries in Kyushu, refused to go along with a company proposal to reduce the work force. As the conflict escalated, however, it soon became apparent that Mitsui Mining and Nikkeiren (Nihon Keieisha Dantai Renmei, or Japan Federation of Employers' Organizations) had conspired to crush the Miike union because it had become too powerful. Not only was the union's independent, adversarial stance setting a militant example for other unions, but its opposition to rationalization of the coal mines also threatened to upset Japanese employers' plans to replace coal with imported oil-the energy revolution that would power Japan's industrial revolution up to the 1973-74 oil crisis. Thus. much more was at stake in the 1960 confrontation than simply miners' jobs at Miike, and the intensity and scope of the struggle reflected serious class antagonism.