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CUPE British Columbia’s second young worker conference wrapped up on Wednesday. The conference brought together 54 young CUPE members from across the province – a 38 per cent increase in attendance from the first conference.

Delegates attended workshops on a series of topics – from stewarding to globalization, from public private partnerships to health and safety. “It was great to see there were so many other young people who cared about these issues,” said Roxanne Calderon, an HEU member who was attending her first union convention. “I learnt a lot about what CUPE does outside my immediate work – especially in terms of how I can get involved in health and safety issues.” For many other delegates, as well, the conference was their first chance to meet trade unionists from outside their local.

“I hope this is just the beginning for many of the people here,” said Angela Thurston, a steward with CUPE 951 (University of Victoria). “These courses give a taste of all the things that CUPE does – but there are so many more opportunities for people to learn about the things they’re interested in, and get involved.”

Sarah Bjorknas, a library worker with CUPE 23 in Burnaby, facilitated the workshop on understanding your collective agreement. “I was really pleased with our workshops – I had a young first-time co-facilitator who was incredibly enthusiastic. We were amazed how engaged all the attendees were, and how clearly relevant the material was to their lives.”

Also present were some members of CUPE’s national young workers’ committee. “I think it’s been really important for us to be able to see what’s happening here in British Columbia,” said Aimee Martin, youth vice-president of CUPE Saskatchewan. “We need to think about how we can have events like this to bring together young workers in each part of the country.”

Trevor Davies, co-chair of the Young Workers’ Task Force, pointed out how important it is to build activism among young CUPE members, given the number of local presidents, activists, and staff members that are retiring – and how both education and social interaction are key to sustaining that activism.

Dan Weiman, the chair of the Task Force, added that if this conference is anything to go by, CUPE’s future is looking bright. “I hope that everyone will be able to take the energy, passion, and commitment that have been so evident here back to their locals,” he said. “This can only make CUPE stronger.”