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Young people are a catalyst for change - Why young people can provide the change we all need

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Only one in twenty young people are part of a union. But why is this?

Is it because of the lack of publicity, the thought that it’s not their place to say anything, or just that a union isn’t the best point of action for a young person?

As a young person, with a job, growing up in a primarily working-class city with most young people around me in employment, I can safely say that young people do have drive. In fact, time and time again they have shown levels of resilience and morale that empower people all over the country to want to make an active change. Going on strike from school in order to draw attention the climate change, rallying day and night when president Trump was set to make a visit to the UK, over and over again young people have shown that they’re not just lazy, smelly teenagers and that they do in fact care about social change and are willing to take risks to solve world issues. I think one of the biggest issues with being young that is even when you have the passion and drive to make a change, your voice is muted and it’s made almost impossible to have a say.

It’s been questioned as to who is going to represent young people in the battle for a fair work environment and people are surprised that only one in twenty young people are actually in a trade union. This may seem shocking considering the huge amount of political activism young people are involved in, but I think it’s quite understandable.

First of all, most young people don’t even know what a union is or does, then there’s the issue of young people not knowing they can even join a union which are two huge problems. But possibly the biggest problem is young people having to pay to be part of a union. Why would these people, who rally every week and constantly fight the battles neglected by older society, want to pay for someone else to tell them to do this? I personally believe that we should give them the information, and voice, that they need and the allow them to make the exact changes they want and design a newer and more effective way to make change. A fresh perspective might just be what the world needs for tackling issues, even within adult employment.

I think one of the problems is, people go through mistreatment at work, without actually knowing what their rights are or that they can question their employer. Many times I’ve been put through uncomfortable situations or made to do something that’s not in my contract but I’ve just done it. But why? Why do I fear saying no to someone just because of their position above me? Why do I feel impolite? Possibly because of the fundamental rules that are engrained in our heads from birth, to speak when spoken to and to respect authority no matter what. Even with this new wave of young activists these rules play a part in why we put up with mistreatment in the workplace. I suppose the fear we feel of losing our jobs, plays a part too. It’s already hard enough to find a job which allows us to keep up with school and have a social life, so we just nod along and get on with it.

If I could give any advice to anyone trying to support young people with mistreatment in the workplace, it would be to stop trying to make them sign up to new and confusing things that they’ve never heard of and adapt to their way of doing things. Stop telling us that we’re ‘time wasters’ or ‘troublemakers’ and take us seriously because how do you expect to engage someone when all you’ve done before is shoot them down for trying? Get in touch, tell them that they can speak out, create a support network of young people who all agree that they deserve better working conditions and treatment and allow them to use their methods of rallying and striking to work things out their own way. Because young people have never liked being controlled or told what to do and I think we should remember that.

All in all, if we tell young people the information that they need and allow them the platform they deserve to speak out and be taken seriously, then I’m sure they would be the catalyst we all need for social change.

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