2015 Bursary Award Winner Essay

By Union Gas Workers'
Published: January 12, 2016

Congratulations to Julia Smit, The 2015 Union Gas Workers’ Council Academic Bursary essay winner!
Here is her essay in it's entirety.
What can the Union do to get more young workers more involved?

Many of us are not aware of it, but without the Union, our lives would be very different. We have the Union to thank for our fair wages, benefits, safe working conditions and many more things within our work life. Unfortunately, not many young workers are very involved with the Union because most of them are not informed of all the important things the Union can do. I believe that in order for more young workers to become involved with the Union, they need to be educated on what Unions do for workers in and out of the workplace. This can be carried out through giving tours to new and young workers around the work area, going over health and safety information with them and ensuring that they have established a good relationship with their co-workers and managers incase they have any questions or concerns. I also think that connecting with people who are active in the Union and having Union members that you can talk to is a very big factor in recruiting young workers to be more involved within the Union.  

From my personal experience, I can honestly say that if I did not have family and friends in the Union, I would not know to stand up for my rights in the work place and to make certain that my co-workers were respected as well. In my very first part-time job, my basic rights were being over looked and I was being denied fair treatment. Because my mother and father are both involved in their Unions, and because my mother is a health and safety representative at Union Gas, I knew to question as to why I was not getting the breaks at work that I was entitled to. Because I began to question my own rights to my managers, it set the bar for my co-workers – both young and old – to begin standing up for themselves as well. This is a prime example of how being educated on the Union is the most affective way to become involved in it. Before talking to my parents and other Union members about my issues with my job, I would never know to confront my managers about my mistreatment. In many work places, I know for a fact that young workers deal with these kinds of situations constantly, and unlike me they are not educated on what to do when this kind of thing happens to them. 

Not only has knowing people in the Union helped me in the work place, but it has also made me more of an activist in today’s society. My mother is very involved with health and safety at her job, which has had a large impact on how I look at situations when I’m at my job, at school and out in my community. Since my mother is constantly standing up for women’s rights and travelling to conferences around the country to learn more about how to make sure women are given fair treatment in and out of the workplace, I am able to learn from her on how to defend women’s rights. Activism is becoming a very large part of our society, and more young people are becoming involved in fighting for the rights of themselves as well as others. This has a direct relation to the Union because Union members are constantly working as activists to ensure we are working in the best possible employment situations. In order for the Union to connect more with younger people, it is important to communicate the issues going on in today’s society with the issues that Union activists deal with. This can break a barrier between young people and the Union because today’s issues (i.e. child slavery, LGBT rights, and abortion laws) are very prevalent in the lives of young people as well as the lives Union members and activists. 

Through many different types of discussion with various Union members, I have discovered an immense amount about the Union and how much of a part it really does play in not only Union members lives, but also the lives of everyone in today’s society. Without having the strong relationship that I do with Union members, I would most definitely say that I would not have all of the knowledge of and respect for the Union. I now understand that if I am ever put in a situation where a person of authority is abusing their position and I am not able to stand up for myself or I do not have access to the tools to fight, the Union will aide me. I also can now see that the Union is very concerned with not only my physical, but also my mental health at my job – they have fought for many things (i.e. release time for parental leave) that will ensure I will stay happy and healthy in my life of employment.

This is a good example of how I have become more influenced by and involved with the Union. I would strongly suggest to those who want to inspire more young people to become connected with the Union to communicate more with them about all of the things I have spoken of in this essay. By sharing experiences Union members have been through with younger individuals, it will assist in creating personal connections. In my opinion, I think the best way to learn something is through conversing with those who have a background and history in that that particular field. Because young people are responsible for the success of the future, it is important for them to be provided with examples to lead by. 
Julia Smit 


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