OPSEU's Provincial Young Workers Committee (PYC) hosted its 7th Annual International Youth Day (IYD) event from August 11-12, 2014. This year's theme was Leadership: Accelerate Your Activism. It welcomed many new activists from across the province! In planning this event, the committee members established one main goal: to equip participants with the knowledge of how to establish their "voice" within OPSEU, their respective workplaces and communities. In addition, they also worked to ensure participants were aware of how to do the following:
- understand how OPSEU works and how decisions are made within the organization;
- identify and overcome barriers to getting involved;
- build strong leadership skills;
- identify issues that they can address through concrete action in their regions;
- develop plans to continue building their leadership skills and take concrete action on the regional issues they have identified; and
- recognize their strengths as potential leaders in OPSEU.
A first this year, the conference program included leadership skills workshops and they were effectively facilitated by members of the PYC. The participants were able to take part in all interactive sessions which focused on the following areas: communication styles, time management, negotiations, networking and relationship building, challenging the employer and public speaking.
The conference also included a panel discussion end: Getting Involved, Becoming Leaders with the following invited guest speakers:
- Chris Cormier, OPSEU Executive Board Member and Regional Vice President from Region 4 (and also one of the founding members of the PYC);
- John Anderson with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN Canada); and
- Sareh Serajelahi with the Workers Action Centre (WAC).
This discussion focused on what motivated these activists to get involved in their respective communities and/or workplaces and how they first got started. These guests also shared effective strategies and what tools to use in terms of getting that important message out, whatever it may be.
Nora Loreto, author of From Demonized to Organized, Building the New Union Movement, served as the event's keynote speaker. Her presentation focused on elements of "what makes a good leader." Her experience and activism working with many community groups certainly provided a healthy, grassroots perspective to these young workers; a majority of whom are just starting out as community activists.
The panel discussion, complemented by Nora's keynote, appeared to resonate amongst the young workers present. They were already looking at possible ways to get more involved within their locals, regions and communities.
Lastly, the participants also engaged in healthy discussions while developing action plans about issues that many young workers face in their regions of the province. A common theme emerged: regardless of geography, the issues of concern to young workers are universal:
- importance of job security;
- fair wages (to keep up with the rising costs of living); and
- cuts to quality public services will prove detrimental no matter where you live in Ontario.
The PYC was extremely encouraged by the enthusiasm and positive response it received for this year's IYD event. Committee members continue to be proud advocates and representatives for young workers in OPSEU. They work tirelessly at increasing the young worker presence not only within their union, but also in local communities across the province.
The PYC leaves this conference energized by a new and refreshing perspective on issues that are of great importance to young workers. They look forward to building on the ideas brought forward this year as they begin plans for next year's event. See you in 2015!
Download the conference materials: