|Issue No 85||23 February 2001|
Letters to the Editor
No Shrinking Violet
To the Editor,
I gratefully congratulate you on your editorial concerning young people in the union movement. And if the major newspapers are anything to go by, I am grateful that you mentioned us at all! It is true that today's youth are a largely ignored minority in the public arena and it seems that they are less enthusiastic than their forebears when it comes to joining unions.
I believe that the union movement's blue-collar history both repels and attracts young people. Repels because of the tired, earthy image of the oppressed worker (which contrasts so starkly to the glamour image of professional careers fed to us by the media, and which most will never even experience). There is the desire to escape the life of drudgery endured by many of our parents in the post-WW2 years.
Simultaneously, the struggles and victories of the union movement appeal to young people. For many, improvements in working conditions and pay for workers demonstrate acts of heroism unknown to the youth of today.
Often, young people do not consider themselves to be 'workers' or battlers as such. We do not expect our jobs now to end up as our careers. In casual positions with little job security and few rewards we work hours of unpaid overtime and are paid minimal wages, often working 2-3 jobs at once to support ourselves.
While aware of appalling sweatshop conditions in other countries, young people do not identify themselves as working in equally appalling conditions at home. This was my position working pre-Valentine's Day for a well-known Sydney chain of florists. In the mad rush to complete thousands of orders, my colleagues and I worked over 18 hours with less than 1 hour break. At 2.30am we trudged home for a shower then back to work on Wednesday to greet love-sick puppies in suits. We were not paid any overtime for a 60 hour week and we have not been given pay slips so we can check that we are being paid correctly.
My industry is not highly unionised. In fact in my workplace of 80 I could well be the only employee who is a member of the union. What do young people do in this situation... do we exit or do we fight alone?
Interview: Tony Abbott – Workers' Friend?
The new Workplace Relations minister relives his own union background and explains why he’s really just another worker at heart. Honestly.
Politics: The Politics of Petrol
Australia might be burning, but is it a fire that can be brought under control?
Organising: The Battle of Campsie
SDA delegate Maria Kavaratzis recounts how the Campsie Big W has been transformed into a union shop.
History: Scabbing Through the Ages
Neale Towart looks back at how popular culture has treated those workers who have not considered themselves part of the collective.
International: Diary of a Showdown
The Korean Metal Workers Federation recounts a week which culminated in violent attacks on workers outside the Daewoo factory.
Economics: Debt Dumping Campaign Enters New Phase
The millennial deadline might have passed, but Jubilee 2000 is not giving up the fight for debt cancellation for the world’s fifty-two poorest countries.
Health: The Real Drug Wars
As Africa attempts to deal with the HIV crisis, access to the medicines that can relieve victims’ suffering is emerging as a major humanitarian issue.
Satire: Liberals Claim Triumph in Queensland
John Howard has claimed the Liberal Party’s decimation in Western Australia and Queensland as a triumphant vindication of his party’s embracing of the national competition policy.
Review: Beyond a White Australia
As we ponder the One Nation renaissance, a new book challenges the current debates around xenophobia and the perceived threat of danger from Asia.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005