Back Row: Justin Congram, Brad Giffin, Chris Coombs, Adam Koch, Jason Allan Kowal, Geoff Bergen, Riva Quennell, Carmen Olson, Enver Harbans
Second Row: Michael Toal, Eleise Chapdelaine, Jessica Rodriguez, Hanane Benzidane, Ashley Morello, Rebecca Easley
Front Row (Sitting): Chloe Carpenter, Leeanne Gagné, Charissa Bryant, Deanna Lajoie
Eighteen UFCW Canada youth activists from Local Unions 1518, 401, 1118, 832 and 1400 shared their ideas and enthusiasm at the 2012 Youth Internship Program (YIP) Western Regional session, July 8 -13, in Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia. YIP is meant "to engage and empower youth activists with the knowledge and confidence that they have the opportunity to bring positive change to their workplace and in their communities", says national representative Enver Harbans, who co-facilitated the workshops along with national representative Michael Toal.
The week-long curriculum was broken into three sections. The Big Picture provided an overview of the challenges facing everyday Canadians because of right-wing governments' Neo-liberal agendas to bow to the corporate agenda ahead of the needs of workers and families. Unions Matter introduced the activists to meaning behind the labour movement, with workshops on conflict resolution, collective bargaining, and negotiation. In Making a Difference, the youth activists brainstormed on how to build on union solidarity and get more involved as union activists and community-builders.
"The week really opened my eyes and built my courage to stand up for you believe in," says UFCW Canada Local 1118 youth activist Leeanne Gagné. "YIP was an amazing learning experience to share viewpoints with other youth, as well as the workshop leaders."
For Local 1518 activist Jason Allan Kowal, "YIP really reinvigorated my drive and sense of purpose within the union and made me feel more connected with UFCW Canada members at other workplaces across the country. The workshops really up-to-date with what's going on in the real world and built my confidence about the role of youth our union."
Chloe Carpenter was one of four Local 401 youth activists at YIP. "I plan to take a more active role and really get involved on issues that I feel are important because the YIP program has made me braver. The youth generation of workers has to step up and to drive the union movement forward. We can do more to create an environment friendly to unionization if we are proactive in our communities."
“YIP was an incredibly energizing and empowering experience," says Local 832 youth activist Peyton Veitch. "What I have learned from the sessions and my fellow youth activists have strengthened my commitment to building a better workplace, fairer society and stronger union."
For Local 1400 activist Riva Quennell, "YIP showed me where there’s passion, especially in youth, there is the power to change things. As long as youth keep getting involved, the union movement will continue in our workplaces and society. I believe by sharing our experiences and learning from one another we will help increase union involvement.”
The Western Regional session concludes the YIP program for 2012. Youth members interested in participating in next year's Youth Internship Program are advised to contact their local union office.