Young Workers: We are the union!

“Young people are working, right now, to make our work places better!” Outgoing CLC Youth Vice President Carly Sonier stated at the start of Monday night’s Youth Forum: Organizing a New Workforce.

The evening began with Indigenous activist and hip-hop artist Zoey Pricelys Roy entertaining the forum telling stories, routed in her Cree culture, about kinship and the early voyageurs.

Moderator Bilan Arte, National Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students, hosted three young union activists, Connor Power from Workers United, Samia Hashi from Unifor and Maggie McCaw from the Canadian Media Guild to discuss their stories of organizing in their workplaces.

Bilan Arte told the forum that union density for young people is actually increasing and that organizing into unions is how we all build power.

“Young people are getting more and more involved in the Canadian labour movement and are starting to access that collective power,” said Arte.

Connor Power, a personal trainer at Goodlife Fitness, was asked by an audience member about overcoming the fear of reprisals from employers when organizing a new worksite. “We made the change in our own workplace because we are the union,” he said.

The panelists were asked to describe the crystalizing moments that drove them to organize a union. Maggie McCaw, who works for VICE Media stated that low wages, few sick days and little vacation were catalysts, but after their counterparts in the US organized, they knew it could be done in Canada.

Samia Hashi, a Bell TV employee, when asked about organizing young workers, suggested that “unions need to be visible in the community” where young people go. She spoke of local events where young workers gather, like Pride and Caribana, as places for unions to be seen and heard.

One of the final questions from the audience came from a delegate who asked, “What do you want the labour movement to do for you?” The panelists again reiterated the point that unions must have a presence, and remind young people that it’s not just our parents who have unions.

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