2nd Workers Uniting Program Brings Together Youth from Around World

Click here to read about the second Workers Uniting Youth Exchange program.

Fourteen young trade unionists from Canada, the United States, UK, Mexico and Cuba met in London, UK in late August for the second Global Youth Exchange organized this year by Workers Uniting.  A typical English summer accompanied the event, though the 12 days of rain couldn’t dampen the delegates’ spirits!

The activities began in Esher at Unite the Union’s Education Centre, a historic building that spoke to England’s long history and reminded the participants of the Harry Potter movies.  Here, the participants engaged in a mix of serious debate and many comical exchanges. They discussed how payments of external debts and deficit fighting are mechanisms to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich. They explored how free trade agreements assault the sovereignty of signatory nations. They learnt how a small country like Cuba can provide universal health care and education because it is free of much of the corporate interference burdening other countries, and how the labour movement is not only fighting for members in their own countries but how it is also engaging in international solidarity with Colombia, Qatar and Cuba. 

The participants also learnt about Residential Schools in Canada, where aboriginal children were sent to “get the Indian out of the Indian” and about the 43 students who disappeared in Iguala, Mexico, while protesting tuition, more than a year ago.

A major issue the group tackled was “youth apathy”. Is it a real phenomenon? Or, just the opinion of older generations? One thing was clear: most apathy felt by young workers is a result of feeling isolated or divided. Realizing the potential of young workers’ collective power is essential in order to confront multiple issues, from the erosion of workplace health and safety, to discrimination in the workplace and all the way to countering the corrosive effects of neoliberal globalization.

In addition to these many worthwhile topics, the participants generously shared their own experiences of building activism in their workplaces and creating space for youth within their union. From workplace war stories to convention speeches to the suggestions of a respected mentor on how to manage a successful campaign, the conversation flowed freely amongst the participants.

The second part of the event got the participants out of the classroom. Held in London, the participants first visited New Westminster Parliament and talked with Grahame Morris, MP for Durham County and member of the Labour party, about politics in the UK. In the Unite the Union building they discussed ideas of working with communities and how the Community Membership Program works for Unite the Union and learnt what Workers Uniting is doing to promote the interests of working people around the world.

The exchange ended with a commitment to continue the conversation using social media and other forms of communication and to join participants from the first Global Youth Exchange on September 18th to participate in “Global Solidarity Day,” where the young trade unionists will carry out community events and actions and with a promise to see each other very soon. 

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