End Exploitation of Homeless in Nuclear Plant Cleanup

One of the gate guards in a hazmat suit, helmet and dual intake respirator

Target: Obayashi Corporation President Toru Shiraishi

Goal: End the exploitation of homeless Japanese in the cleanup of the Fukushima nuclear disaster

Nearly 300,000 people were evacuated following the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster that devastated Japan in 2011. Many may never be able to return to their homes because of contamination that lingers around the Fukushima power plant. Now, in a sick turn of events, corporations have begun exploiting homeless Japanese to clean up the very radiation that, for some, led to the loss of their homes in the first place.

Some contractors employed by Obayashi Corporation, one of the nation’s top construction firms, have been found recruiting homeless people for work on decontamination projects. Reuters reports that in some cases only a third of the wages meant for workers actually make it to the workers themselves, while the rest is pocketed by the middlemen who recruit them. Workers’ food and lodging are deducted from their pay, in some cases leaving them with less than minimum wage to clean up one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters. The arrangement leaves some workers in debt to their employers, to say nothing of medical issues that may result from their on-the-job exposure to high levels of radiation.

People without adequate housing are among the most vulnerable to exploitation, in any society. Obayashi Corporation profits from its $1.4 million government contract on the backs of homeless Japanese citizens who are essentially tricked into slave labor. Tell the company to cease this practice immediately. Demand that Obayashi Corporation pay fair wages to all contracted employees, and ensure that these wages go to the cleanup workers themselves.


Dear Obayashi Corporation President Toru Shiraishi,

Reuters has uncovered a disturbing practice among your company’s Fukushima cleanup contractors. Middlemen hired to recruit employees are targeting homeless Japanese, pocketing upwards of two thirds of the wages that are supposed to go to the workers. Some homeless cleanup workers actually end up indebted to their handlers after deductions for food and lodging.

Japanese police and independent journalists have brought to light this ongoing exploitation of some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens.  Obayashi Corporation has received a generous contract, funded by taxpayers, yet many of the workers hired to decontaminate this nuclear disaster end up doing so for less than minimum wage. One can only assume that this is because your company places a low value on homeless people, or else feels that no one will care what sort of treatment they endure because of their place in society.

Stop valuing profits over human beings, and end the exploitation of homeless people today. Ensure that all contracted employees are paid a fair wage, and that all wages intended for cleanup workers go to the workers themselves.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Steve Herman via Wikimedia

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