Japan's biggest labor group gets 1st female chief

Japan's largest labor organization has appointed its first-ever female chief.

The Japanese Trade Union Confederation, or Rengo, elected 55-year-old Yoshino Tomoko as its new president at a regular meeting held in Tokyo on Wednesday.

Rengo was established in 1989. Yoshino has been vice president of the organization for six years. She has served at the Japanese Association of Metal, Machinery and Manufacturing Workers. She is replacing Kozu Rikio, who served as Rengo president for six years over three terms.

After being elected, Yoshino said that women unfortunately continue to face a glass ceiling and that she has seen many women leave the labor community against their wishes.

She said it's important for Rengo to go out into the field to support the hard-working people and to create an environment that allows them to continue working with peace of mind.

She added that labor union activities are at a crossroads amid the coronavirus pandemic. She says she will listen to the voices of as many people as possible to promote the labor movement.

Rengo also appointed 62-year-old Shimizu Hideyuki as its general secretary. Shimizu has been the head of the Japan Teachers' Union. It is the first time for a person from a union representing workers of the public sector to serve as general secretary.

About seven million members belong to the labor unions under Rengo.

The Rengo president's roles are wide-ranging. They include sending out information as the leader of the labor movement, negotiating with business leaders at annual spring wage talks, making policy proposals and coordinating political issues.