Today, December 4, 2020, the long-awaited Workers' Cooperatives Act was passed in the 203rd extraordinary session of the Diet. I would like to express my heartfelt respect to all who were involved in the enactment of this Act. I am grateful in particular to the members of the Diet who worked so hard from the drafting of the bill through parliamentary deliberation, the staffs of the Legislative Bureau of the House of Representatives and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare who supported this work, and those involved with cooperatives and labor welfare organizations who have long hoped for and supported the enactment of a new cooperatives act.

Our movement began amid calls for the elimination of unemployment in 1979. Our predecessors embodied in this movement the spirit of decent work: ones grounded in trust, respect, and affection. But how could such decent work be realized? The answer to this question was to be found on the path toward Workers' Cooperatives. Since then, we have created jobs where individuals can demonstrate their own abilities, through the independence of individual workers and efforts to build workplaces to foster cooperation among working colleagues. We also have addressed pride in individual work and the dignity of life, through ceaselessly considering the forms that should be taken by decent work as well as local communities and society.

I would like to express my high regard for our more than 15,000 members nationwide and my respect for our predecessors upon the grand achievement of the enactment of this Act, as a result of their ceaseless efforts and diligent pursuit of this goal.

Today, we live in the midst of unease and confusion to which no end is in sight, amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. I cannot help but think that the enactment of the Workers' Cooperatives Act in Japan under such conditions was somehow inevitable. I see the Act as being intended not merely to establish a way of cooperative but to take on the challenge of returning to the essential fundamentals of society: self governance, human rights, and democracy.

Workers' Cooperatives will make their official appearance as small presences embodying the ideal for society in a time of threats to sustainability and survival. It involves reconnecting work to living, shifting from competition to cooperation, and returning to a sense of humanity established within a wealth of interrelations. Workers' Cooperatives represent a major challenge undertaken by a modest presence: to reconsider, from the fundamentals, people's ways of living that have involved mass production through the scramble to deplete natural resources, a rush toward insatiable and excessive consumption, and polluting the planet to the limits by generating fearful volumes of wastes.

The time has come in which the treasure of associated work that we have polished for the past 40 years will be accessible to everybody, as a treasure for society as a whole, and associated work will become a familiar presence as many people form worker cooperatives under the new Act, so that anybody can work in comfort as an important member of society.

This is the dawn of the age of the Associated Work Movement: one in which it is recognized that no life is wasted, every life can shine through work, and work is a source of pride and a future.

December 4, 2020
Nobuhiro Furumura, Board Chairperson, Japan Workers' Co-operative Union

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