As we celebrate International Youth Day this August the 12th, we are thinking about the way young people are rising up and organizing in response to the challenges they face every day. The UN’s 2022 theme is “Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages.”
Young workers have been critical in the resurgence of the labour movement across North America. Forced into precarious, part-time and temporary positions, young workers have been treated as disposable during the pandemic, even as we relied on so many of them as front-line and essential workers during lockdowns. The economic consequences of the pandemic have disproportionately affected young workers: 26 per cent of workers under the age of 30 years lost their jobs in the first two months of the pandemic, compared to 12 per cent of workers older than 30.
The response of young workers to bad employers and bad working conditions is nothing short of inspiring. Instead of moving from one bad job to the next, young workers are on the front lines of organizing the most precarious workplaces and taking on the worst corporate employers. Young workers are building bargaining power by organizing in their workplaces and in their communities.
On the heels of International Youth Day, close to 80 OPSEU/SEFPO young workers will gather this weekend (August 12-14) for the 14th annual OPSEU/SEFPO Young Workers Conference. This year’s theme is Be Seen, Be Heard, Be Louder: We are the Right Now.
The goal is to empower OPSEU/SEFPO young workers to build bargaining power in their locals, and build alliances in their communities and in the broader labour movement. A roster of distinguished speakers and skills building workshops have been lined up. They’re designed to provide tools to organize together for change in our union, communities and workplaces.
With a focus on post-pandemic education, we hope conference participants will learn how to modernize the union movement by creating space using social networks to connect union members; learn how to use social media platforms as an organizing vehicle for unions, and learn more about pensions.
The event will close with a special ‘Solidarity Project’ to highlight and recognize striking workers. We can all show intergenerational solidarity by posting an issue affecting young workers. Let’s encourage change in our workplaces. Use the hashtag #BeLouderPYC throughout the weekend!
As always, be seen, be heard, be louder.
JP Hornick, OPSEU/SEFPO President
Laurie Nancekivell, OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer
Taylor McIntosh, OPSEU/SEFPO Provincial Young Workers Committee (PYC) Chair