May 8, 2008

Guest Blog: Young Workers Are the Future

Today's guest blog was written by Ryan Brunet, Local 1102 RWDSU

Young workers are the future of our unions today.

It is important that we involve them as much as possible, for they will be tomorrow’s leaders. Young workers are creative, productive, and have high expectations of being empowered to take on challenges. They have a strong desire to succeed at these challenges especially when there’s a high level of personal involvement. Young workers want to be involved. They feel a great sense of pride when they can contribute to the decision-making process.

Young workers generally do not have many avenues that allow them to make a real impact in their work place. Involving young workers in unions and union activities directly empowers them and gives them a say in the work place. It allows them to have a voice that can be heard.

To engage young workers, you need to empower them. We can do this by giving them a way to communicate with other young workers who share common interests. Asking them for feedback on specific questions allows us to see things from their point of view. I am a young worker myself and have grown up in the age of technology. This technology has changed the way we communicate. In earlier years mass mailing or leafleting may have been the best way to spread the word. Today we email, text message, and instant message. I believe that it is important that we have well created websites where young workers can go to easily learn more about unions. Websites, message boards, and blogs give the young worker the ability to reach out, ask questions, and receive answers all from the comfort of their homes. They can contribute their thoughts and ideas without feeling "put on the spot". These forums allow them to share their prospective and interests with other young workers.

1 comment:

zoecoggeshell said...

Ryan I completely agree, I think technology will play a major role in the future of young peoples involvement in public affairs. However, while technology is a powerful medium for involvement we first have to have young people who are interested in finding these recourses. How many young people are going to come home from work every day and blog on their unions website? What messages is the union sending in the work place that will impassion young people to come home and read about their union, go to union meetings and tell their friends about their experiences?

I am 22 years old and have been working in a union store for a year now, and while I understand the merits of having a union I am seeing very few benefits for myself. I entered in under a contract that offers very little, my company refuses to give me fulltime hours and therefore I am not eligible for health insurance. I make $7.60 and hour (a little above minimum wage, thank you union), but if the company won’t give me hours that doesn’t add up to much. I calculate I made about $9,000 last year which puts me below the poverty line.

A co-worker of mine is 18 years old and in his senior year of high school. He has told me that he knows he would get a raise if he dropped out of school because of the way the union contract is set up. If an 18 year old is still in high school they are still considered a minor and therefore make less than their older collogues. Is this a good message to be sending? I have not given up hope for what the union might bring but am discouraged by what I see and hear.

As I mentioned I have been working in a union store for a year, but this is the first time I’ve bothered to go to the union website. I noticed while I was there that the union has a facebook group, there were only 70 members, that’s not a lot. I joined today so now there are 71, it’s a start but it’s not enough. I feel more needs to be done to educate young people about the benefits of unions. Unions brought our grandparents the weekend, what will it bring out generation?

Respectfully submitted
Courtney Hall Local 880