Photo/Illutration Tomoko Yoshino, center background, head of Rengo (Japanese Trade Union Confederation), appears at an April 18 session of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Strategy Headquarters for Living the 100-year Life. (Koichi Ueda)

The head of Japan’s largest labor organization attended a gathering of ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers on April 18, a rare move considering unions have long supported opposition parties.

Tomoko Yoshino, who chairs Rengo (Japanese Trade Union Confederation), discussed various labor-related issues at the LDP’s Strategy Headquarters for Living the 100-year Life.

The topics included gender wage disparity, the prevalence of women in irregular jobs, and helping people who care for children or elderly family members to continue working.

Rengo has long been the main support group of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Democratic Party for the People.

LDP officials asked Yoshino to exchange views at the gathering with party lawmakers.

“We wanted individuals who have not had the opportunity to directly present their views to appear at our meeting,” said Yoko Kamikawa, who chairs the LDP strategy headquarters, after the session.

Yoshino downplayed the unusual nature of a top Rengo official attending an LDP gathering, noting that one of her predecessors, Nobuaki Koga, once attended a party session.

LDP Vice President Taro Aso, however, said in a speech in Fukuoka on April 17 that the ruling party and Rengo are in an increasingly close relationship.

He said not only were labor union officials giving speeches at LDP headquarters, but the relationship had developed into one in which the two sides wined and dined together as well.

“As a result, Rengo no longer only supports CDP candidates (in national elections),” Aso said.

(This article was written by Yuta Kayaba and Takero Yamazaki.)