Young activist reflects on recent YIP experience

UFCW 1006A member Rechev Browne (second from left) pictured with YIP participant Wesley Foster (left), NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh (second from right), and UFCW 1006A President Wayne Hanley.

Vaughan, Ont. – January 24, 2018 – UFCW Local 1006A member and youth activist Rechev Browne recently participated in the UFCW Canada Young-Workers Internship Program (YIP). Below he shares his experience completing the program over the last two years.

“I was so excited when I got the call to participate in the second phase of YIP in Ottawa.

I took the first phase in 2016 and co-facilitated the Ontario program in 2017. In Phase 2, we were taught the art of political lobbying and how to communicate to elected officials at the provincial and federal levels.

Due to the work I have done with the OFL’s Make It Fair campaign, I became quite obsessed with politics and the political process. We, as a labour movement and as a society, need to understand that if we seek to improve the lives of workers and create social change, we need to influence our politicians and make them aware of the issues that everyday Canadians are facing.

When I arrived in Ottawa, I met other amazing young workers. And soon after, we took part in a jam-packed day of media training and learning about lobbying.

Our group had the opportunity to put our training into action as we participated in UFCW Canada’s lobby day on Parliament Hill, with local union activists from across the country. I had previously never been to Parliament Hill, so I was excited. How many other young workers get the opportunity to lobby members of Parliament at Centre Block?

It was a magnificent experience to meet with MPs and discuss issues of pay equity and pension plans. I am thankful for my union for the opportunity. Later, I attended UFCW Canada’s Parliamentary Reception, where Local Union Presidents and Members of Parliament gathered for an informative evening on what UFCW Canada members do. There, I engaged MPs about young workers’ issues.

The highlight for me was being able to talk to two people I look up to as leaders and as role models – UFCW Local 1006A President Wayne Hanley and new federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. Both of these individuals are inspiring and have done great things for workers in Ontario and across Canada.

YIP continued in Toronto where we had the opportunity to be interviewed on the radio show Voces Latinas on CHHA 1610. This was our training to be better speakers and learn how to utilize all forms of media.

I was very excited to speak about why it is important for young workers to be involved in politics and discuss issues affecting youth, such as mental health and accessible child care.

Our group became the first-ever young worker interns to exclusively lobby on behalf of UFCW Canada. We discussed removing the barriers to post-secondary education, creating new mental health initiatives, and providing affordable and accessible child care to all families. I met with MPP Cindy Forster, the Ontario NDP’s Labour Critic, and Kevin Flynn, the Minister of Labour.

I would like to thank UFCW Canada and UFCW Local 1006A for providing programs like YIP, so that young workers like me can develop leadership skills to take back to our workplaces and our communities. YIP ensures that young workers are engaged and that unions and the labour movement continue to grow. My experience gave me the opportunity to meet new people, make new friends, and inspired me to play a greater role in my community.”