Support our mission

NAHA, Okinawa — An interim Japanese government report on complaints by Japanese employees of the AAFES Exchange on Kadena Air Base was “disappointing,” a union leader has said.

Yuichi Oba, chief secretary of Zukeran branch of Zenchuro Okinawa, the Japan Garrison Forces Labor Union, said the interim report fails to delve into reasons why most of the complaints filed by union members each month are from workers at the Army and Air Force Exchange Service.

Of the union’s 6,400 members, 2,500 belong to the Zukeran Branch and 1,200 work for AAFES, he said. On average, he said, of the about 60 complaints the union receives each month from Zukeran Branch members, more than 50 are from AAFES workers.

The union receives just 10 complaints per year from its Air Force and Marine branches, officials from the other two branches reported.

“Most of the complaints are about annual leaves and lunch breaks,” Oba said. “They complain that they cannot take lunch break until an hour before they go home for the day. Also, they said that their annual leave requests are often disapproved and, instead, they are forced to take days the managers decide.”

The general manager of AAFES stores on Okinawa has rejected any clams that Japanese employees are being mistreated.

The investigation by the Japanese Defense Facilities Administration Bureau in Naha was sparked by complaints two women workers, one pregnant, filed in May saying they fell ill after a Kadena Exchange supervisor rejected their request to go home early.

When the complaints were made public last month, Bob Little, the Okinawa Exchange general manager for AAFES, said the women had pre-existing conditions not related to their work environment. He said AAFES first learned of the complaints through local newspaper reports.

On Monday, Little issued a statement declaring, “AAFES management will continue to maintain our exceptional working relationship with the DFAB.

“We welcome open lines of communication that will allow concerns of our valued associates to be addressed and resolved in a timely manner, as necessary,” Little stated.

Oba said union representatives plan to meet with DFAB Naha officials again on Aug. 27.

“Their report was just an interim report,” he said. “They said that they are interviewing all the employees of the AAFES store to have a proper understanding of circumstances.”

A DFAB Naha official said the agency filed a request with AAFES to improve the working conditions at the AAFES stores.

“Based on the problems we perceived through our investigation so far, we filed a request with U.S. side to take all possible measures for the health care of Japanese employees and to make necessary improvements so that employees will not be tasked with an unreasonable workload,” the spokesman said.


Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up