Fresh ideas and vigor: CUPE young workers network in Saskatoon

A group of young workers met this morning at the CUPE Saskatchewan Convention to talk about activism, solidarity, and their experience as young CUPE members. Two of these workers were Emily Hitchings and Wesley Griffith. Emily is following in a strong family tradition of activism within CUPE as an education worker. Wesley is working in the healthcare sector, having served as a shop steward and is looking to get more involved with his local.

When asked what the union could do to help attract and engage with young workers like them to take a more active role in their union, they didn’t hold back. Wesley worked in his position for seven years before being approached by the union to get more involved. Likewise, Emily actively sought out her local executive to get involved. They both agree that locals can be more proactive in reaching out. “We need to reduce the stigma that young workers don’t want to get involved,” said Emily. “We need to diagnose barriers which keep them from participating.”

Two of the major barriers they identified was precarious work and family status. There are other issues that act as barriers, and the union needs to keep working to break those down. “The good news is that I have seen an increase in participation,” Emily continued. “It’s a good sign that things are getting better.”

Wesley and Emily concluded with a message for young members. “The union does have power, and does more than you think,” said Wesley.

“I would love to be part of creating a space that is the most welcoming it can possibly be, in terms of any person, whether they are a young person or an equity deserving member. I’d love to be part of creating a space where they feel that they can do anything, because the union can really do anything. Where they can do anything, and they feel empowered to do that.”

CUPE Saskatchewan’s young workers committee is one of many ways the union at the provincial level is helping to engage young workers.

Resources for locals are available:

Developed by CUPE’s National Young Worker Committee, the guide identifies internal and external barriers to young workers’ participation in their union, as well as ways to foster greater inclusion and involvement.