Published in In Motion Magazine August 6, 1996.
Our purpose was to study the impact of trade and labor policices on the U.S. economy. While in Japan we met with the executives of five major automobile manufacturers where we discussed the lack of fair trade with minority communities and sex and race discrimination. We also met with Bridgestone/Firestone, the New Otani Hotel Company, and Sony Corporation to address similar issues of concern.
In most of the cases we saw patterns that apparently emerged out of the 1953 Friendship (Trade and Navigation Treaty) between the United States and Japan. The treaty allows Japanese nationals in the American companies in Japan to holfd all the top management and key executive positions in the companies.
This explains why 80 percent of Japanese companies in America hold on to a pattern of cultural exclusivity, which is inherently discriminatory to indigenous populations. All of the automakers, the New Otani Company and Bridgestone/Firestone are managed entirely by Japanese and 100 percent of Mitsubishi's management structure in the U.S. is Japanese nationals. By contrast, Sony was the only company we met with that was not wedded to this exclusive principle. Nor are U.S. companies wedded to this principle.
For example, 75 percent of U.S. companies in Japan are managed by Japanese and IBM's entire management structure in Japan consists of Japanese nationals. This pattern violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and whenever it is challenged in court, because these corporations must legally abide by U.S. laws, Title VII prevails. But the Japanese companies begrudgingly accept those verdicts.
This pattern of cultural exclusivity in addition to being discriminatory and leaving the Japanese without integrated management teams is a big factor in the rash of discrimination suits. It also lends to communication problems and insensitivity on matters of race and sex inclusion. The car industry is reflective of this insensitivity. For example, of the 10,500 foreign car dealerships, only 161 are minorities or women and only 21 are African American. American Honda Motors has two African American-owned franchises and nine Hispanic even though they comprise 22 percent of their market. Mitsubishi also has a poor record. mitsubishi has 503 franchises in the U.S., only three are African American and eight Hispanic.
When we met with the Mitsubishi executives we asked for a commitment to: a) settle the sex harassment cases immediately; b) assign someone iin authority from the parent corporation to end the culture of race and sex discrimination; and c) to hire African American and Latino consultants. Instead they chose to prolong the agonizing legal battle and hired an insensitive consulting firm as a diversion, not a solution.
The Rainbow/PUSH Action Network and the National Organization for Women (NOW) have been applying direct pressure, informational picketing and boycotts of Mitsubishi. Because there is no evidence of a visible plan by Mitsubishi to end the patterns of race and sex bias and promote reciprocal trade, the protest efforts will escalate. The impact of the lack of fair and reciprocal trade and lack of equal opportunity creates a burden that we should not have to bear and therefore we will fight back.
As for the New Otani chain which is in Japan, the U.S. and Singapore, only the Singapore franchise has a union workforce. The New Otani Hotel and Gardens in Los Angeles has attempted to defeat a union organizing effort by firing union organizers, intimidating workers and refusing to endorse card-check elections. We call upon our allies to expand and intensify our efforts to support the boycott by the Hotel and Resetaurant Employees (HERE) Local 11 boycott of the New Otani Hotel until the fired workers are rehired and a card check election is held.
We urge Japanese corporations to set goals, target and timetables to:
We must remove ancient walls that divide and deny, and build bridges of economic opportunity and expanded trade and a shared commitment to an equal playing field for the workers.
If you have any thoughts on this or would like to contribute to an ongoing discussion in the
E-mail, Opinions & Discussion column click here to send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.