Toei Animation Refuses Labor Negotiations With LGBT Union Member
posted on by Kim Morrissy
Yahoo! News reported last Wednesday that Toei Animation attempted to refuse labor negotiations with a union representing a former unit director ("A-san") who claims to have been unfairly stripped of work. In the paperwork, Toei accuses the union member ("B-san") who was handling the negotiations of using a "false name." B-san, who identifies as X-Gender (neither male nor female), uses an alias that better reflects their gender identity.
Toei's letter to the Precariat Union, which is handling the case, explicitly deadnames B-san, and accused them of "majorly damaging the relationship of trust between Toei Animation and the labor union."
B-san insisted that their alias should have no connection to the case at hand. "In the first place, there are many married people who work under an alias, and the name I use for collective bargaining has nothing to do with the name on my family registry," they told Yahoo! News. "Collective bargaining is an obligation established by the labor union, not a matter of a trust relationship and so forth. I think that they refused to even give me a seat at the discussion because they have no desire to resolve the dispute."
They also emphasized their discomfort at being referred to by their deadname. "For me, just looking at my family registry name is painful. To be on the receiving end of such a discriminating act by the company made me feel disappointment, sadness, and pain."
The Precariat Union made contact with Toei three times for collective bargaining. The first three interactions were performed through online conferencing due to COVID-19. For the fourth meeting, they did not receive the online conferencing link. After phoning the studio beforehand, B-san went to the building to meet with the lawyer and the people handling the case directly. When they arrived, the lawyer allegedly spoke to them aggressively and used a security guard to chase them out. After this, the company continued text correspondence for some time without coming to an agreement, before eventually sending the letter rejecting and deadnaming B-san.
A-san, who claims to have been subjected to power harassment in their seven years working at the company, also remarked with dismay. "The company's attitude was already clearly unfair and cruel, but I can't believe that they would go this far. I didn't think that they would say such a thing."
A-san claims to have been dismissed as a unit director after an altercation with an animation director. According to them, Toei had a culture of overwork, and they had even been told by senior staffers to "use animation directors like worker bees." The animation director was frustrated at an instruction that A-san had issued, prompting them to angrily berate A-san in the staff room.
Although A-san managed to reach a compromise with the animation director at the time, a few days later, they were told that they would be dropped as a unit director while the animation director would stay on. They were also continuously shuffled around at jobs so that they would feel pressured to quit. In addition, their contract was changed from unit director to assistant unit director.
A-san attempted to consult with the Toei Animation labor union, but felt that the union had ties with the company that were too strong, which made discussions go nowhere. A-san was transferred to a separate building from the main studio and demoted even further to clerical work. "It was a stereotypical oidashibeya," they said, using the colloquial term for a room where employees are sent to do pointless and menial tasks so that they quit on their own accord.
A-san eventually managed to return to work as an assistant unit director, but rumors had apparently spread about them in the studio. A-san was told by a third-party that they had received an email from a senior staff member telling everyone "not to let A-san ever become a unit director."
A-san said that they had never expected the issue to snowball to such a degree. Even after consulting with an outsider labor union, they say that they simply want to return to work. "I always admired Toei Animation," they said. "I've received valuable advice from the directors who have come out of Toei, and I'd always had a good impression of the studio. But when I finally joined the company, it had such an oppressive atmosphere. I am disappointed that the situation has worsened to such a degree."
They say that they are currently still working at Toei, but without any friends to openly support them on the inside. They now harbor disillusioned feelings about the studio.
"Toei Animation uses the Puss 'n Boots protagonist Pero as its logo. It's a story in which Pero ignores his friends in order to help out the mice who are in a lower position, and by doing that he gets chased out by his friends. In my situation, the boot is on the other foot. Everyone is wrapped up in company politics and things that have existed for a long time, so all they do is chase out people who are in the lower position. I think that this is linked to the company's discriminatory attitude towards sexual minorities, like how they called B-san's name a 'fake name.'"
B-san also expressed their disappointment at the studio, which has become iconic for its children's stories with uplifting and progressive messaging. "Toei Animation's Precure series sends a message filled with hope when it comes to gender expression. Its influence is felt not just in Japan, but across the world. I am deeply disappointed that it is this company that has performed such an injustice."
The Precariat Union started a Change.org petition on January 7 drawing attention to the issue. The union is aiming to receive 1,500 signatures and is currently less than 100 signatures away from that goal.
Update: Toei Animation has denied any engagement in discriminatory acts. (Source: Sponichi)
Source: Yahoo! News (Sо̄shi Matsuoka)
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history