“To be honest,” Smith admits, “I was never involved with young workers issues until I was approached by my local president.” Smith is a primary care paramedic with CUPE 3324 in Charlottetown, PEI, though she currently resides in Halifax while completing an unpaid internship for Advanced Care Paramedic training. Her past volunteer work with organizations in the LGBTTI community led to her involvement with the Pink Triangle Committee when she became a CUPE member in 2011.
“I was initially unsure about the Young Workers’ Committee,” said Smith, referring to late 2012 when she was first recruited to join, “I didn’t know what I would be able to contribute.” Since then she has come to see the unique challenges that young workers face in the current economic climate and how the struggles of young workers link to the struggles of the labour movement.
“Threats and attacks on all workers’ pensions are high, and these will directly affect the ability for young workers to continue, or even begin, to contribute to pension plans,” noted Smith who points out that the current generation of young workers has to face exponentially increasing tuition, real estate and living costs while opportunities for good stable employment are dwindling and the burden of saving for retirement has become a personal responsibility for most, rather than a cost shared by workers and employers.
“Living wage is the issue that ties it all together,” Sarah summarized, “There is too much strain on young workers to live a dignified and successful life.” Young workers have a unique perspective on the challenges facing workers today. Facing the prospect of spending their entire working lives in an austerity economy makes it ever more important for young workers to become active in the labour movement. As a member of the National Young Workers’ Committee, Smith has helped develop mentorship programs and promote accessible union education to train the next generation of labour leaders.