1006A youth activist Rechev Browne shares his reflections on his recent experiences with the Youth Internship Program.
I was so excited when I got the call to participate in the second phase of UFCW Canada's Youth Internship Program 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 or create social change, we need to influence our politicians and make them aware of the issues 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 training, learning about lobbying and media training.
Our group had the opportunity to put our training into action as we participated in UFCW Canada’s lobby day on Parliament Hill, with staff from local unions across the country. I have 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 NPD Leader Jagmeet Singh. Both of these individuals are inspiring and have done great things for workers in Ontario and across Canada.
Our Youth Internship Program 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 young workers such as mental health and accessible child care.
Our work continued at Queen’s Park where we had the opportunity to prepare and create our very own lobby kit. We put our minds together for a couple of days and came up with a masterpiece, in my opinion, for lobbying at Queen’s Park.
Our group became the first ever young worker group to exclusively lobby on behalf of UFCW Canada, whose membership consists of over 40% young workers. We discussed removing the costs and barriers of post-secondary education, creating new mental health initiatives, and providing affordable and accessible childcare. I met with MPP Cindy Forster, who is the Ontario NDP’s labour critic and Kevin Flynn, the Minister of Labour in Ontario.
I would like to thank UFCW Canada and UFCW Local 1006A for providing programs like the Young Workers Internship Program, so that young workers like me, can take part and develop leadership roles and skills to take back to our workplace and our communities. YIP ensures that young workers are engaged and that unions and the labour movement continues to grow. My experience gave me the opportunity to meet new people, make new friends and inspired me to take a greater role in my community.