Supporting burgeoning global democratic movements led by young people and building alliances with non-unionized young workers must be a priority for young union members across Canada, said guest speakers at a well-attended convention youth forum.
Using traditional tactics like information pickets targeting bad employers, grass-roots organizing and new social media tools, the B.C. Employees Action Rights Network (EARN) which formed in 2010 mobilizes young workers to agitate for increases to the minimum wage, better jobs and better government labour policies.
“Many young workers today are stuck in low-waged and often unsafe jobs,” said EARN’s Stephen von Sychowski. “Building bridges between unions and non-union young workers, is key to making work for youth better and rebuilding unions.”
Particpants also heard about the struggle of youth fighting for democracy in Burma. As an activist in a Burmese pro-democracy group (Mon Youth Progressive Organization) Aung Naing Soe has been forced to live in exile in Thailand for the last 14 years. Of the country’s 2000 political prisoners, more than 200 of them are young Burmese. The majority of youth in Burma have little access to education or good jobs. More than 30 per cent of Burma’s budget goes to the military and the majority of people are poor.
“Please join our democracy movement. Use your liberty to promote ours and make a better world,” said Aung in encouraging youth delegates to support a campaign to free Burma’s political prisoners.