As someone raised by parents who were business owners, I had no exposure to unions. To me, unions were nothing more than organizations that protect lazy workers and organize strikes to disrupt services. I have since realized that I had a very distorted understanding of unions and what they do for their members.
With less than three years of experience with OSSTF/FEESO, I felt confused about what it meant to be a union member. I was eager to make a difference by addressing all the things I was sure I wouldn’t like about the union, but I didn’t know how to take that first step. My union president tapped me on the shoulder and suggested I apply to be on the New Member Engagement Advisory Work Group. It took that one tap to give me the courage and motivation to get me started, and I have been hooked ever since.
I’ve discovered that my union is much different than I thought. It doesn’t protect lazy workers, it protects the process outlined in labour laws and collective agreements so that every worker is treated fairly. It invests in its members and their families through scholarships and bursary funds. The union lobbies the government and employers to protect the health and safety of every member, and it creates and delivers workshops for the professional and personal development of members.
I don’t think many are aware of all the services their Federation offers them. The more I become involved and the more information and experience I receive, the more confidence I have, both in my workplace and in my personal life. Now, I’m very involved in my union. I represent OSSTF/FEESO as the Young Worker representative at the Canadian Labour Congress. I am also a member of the provincial New Member Engagement Advisory Workgroup, and I sit on my local executive.
All it takes is one individual to reach out to another to give them the confidence and encouragement they need to get involved in our labour movement. My future goals are to someday have a leadership role in my local union and empower people to learn more about their rights.