An open invitation to young workers

Issue 

Work Choices hit the most vulnerable sections of the work force hardest — among them, young workers. With the Howard government now history, the challenge for young workers is to reclaim what was lost under these hated laws, to extend their rights at work, and actively participate in the rebuilding of the unions as organisations that put workers' rights first. Bea Bassi, coordinator of the Socialist Alliance's NSW Trade Union Committee, urges the next generation of workers to get active in the union movement.

Where should young workers be looking to become active unionists? Well, the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union (LHMU) — 137,000 members —might be a place to start. It covers ambulance services, casinos, the hospitality industry, child care and security workers. That's a lot of work variety in just one union! For its part, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) covers workers in an industry employing tens of thousands of young people.

Young workers change jobs frequently, and mostly have little exposure to the benefits of collective bargaining and award conditions. So as a young worker you will need to find out which union represents you on any particular job and change your union membership accordingly.

Of course, younger workers will most likely encounter difficulties and challenges within any union. However, there's no better representation, protection and opportunity to influence working conditions than that provided by your union.

A union can be more or less progressive, it can be a "maybe", but it is the only "maybe" we have as workers. Unions are our organisation: we are the union.

Whether you work casual, part-time or full-time, joining the union is the first step to getting actively involved in the process of creating a safe and better working environment. Being a union member will help defend your rights. If you are eventually elected workplace delegate by your fellow workers you will have more protection as an activist facing the bosses, and be able to speak up more strongly for everyone's rights at work.

Carrying out this work while being a member of a clearly pro-worker organisation such as the Socialist Alliance will "complete the circle" of your life of activism — you will be better able to engage with both the industrial and the political aspects of life on the job.

We, the consciously socialist workers, certainly understand the importance of industrial struggles and victories. But we also understand that if we do not succeed in translating them into advances in workers' political understanding of the need to build an alternative to the Australian Labor Party, the job will have barely started.

That's because without such a party — a mass, democratic force that fights for the aspirations of the working majority in this country — we will never make major steps towards the exploitation-free, sustainable society we all want to see.

As a member of the Socialist Alliance, coordinator of its NSW Trade Union Committee and as an "adult" worker, I would like to invite all active young unionists to join our committee, either by participating in our mailing list or by attending our regular meetings.

Irrespective of your studies, vocation and future place of work, you will end up being part of the working class, and potentially part of its future leadership. The more young workers get involved in working-class struggles and campaigns, the more energetic and powerful these will be.

Together we can influence the present, claiming ownership of our representative industrial body — the union — while offering a political alternative that sustains the victories of the working class and strives to translate these into the basis of a genuine workers' party.

As a member of the Socialist Alliance, coordinator of its NSW Trade Union Committee and as an "adult" worker, I would like to invite all active young unionists to join our committee, either by participating in our mailing list or by attending our regular meetings.

[For more information about the Socialist Alliance's NSW Trade Union Committee, phone Beatriz on 0411 614 495 or email .]