Ken Georgetti remarks to the ITUC Youth Committee

Delegates, committee members and guests – welcome to beautiful British Columbia and welcome to Vancouver.

Bonjour et bienvenue à Vancouver.

I come from British Columbia and am very proud that both the Canadian Labour Congress and my home province are hosting the delegates to the ITUC’s second world congress.

As you know, Vancouver hosted the world already this year – with the Winter Olympic games in February.

So we’re used to having visitors from nations around the world and I know you will get to know our warm hospitality, great scenery, and perhaps even some great places to eat and socialize, over the coming week.

The Canadian Labour Congress is the largest trade union central in Canada, representing 3.2 million workers in 53 affiliated unions from coast-to-coast-to-coast.

We are also represented at the provincial and municipal levels in Canada by provincial and territorial federations of labour and local labour councils.

And we all recognize some very important needs:

the need to make space for young workers in our union structures, and
the need to reach out to non-union young workers and spread the word about the union advantage so that they might become interested in joining, or even forming a union in their workplace.

A few years ago we did some research that showed the union advantage in Canada was on average $5 an hour.

That same research showed by joining a union, the pay gap for women was significantly reduced.

And for young women in Canada, where the pay gap is around 32 cents an hour, joining a union is simply the best pay equity plan around.

To help us in our work to attract young workers to the labour movement, the Canadian Labour Congress has a full-time staff person dedicated to that work – Erin Harrison-Taylor is our current young workers national representative.

The CLC also has youth representation on our governing Executive Council, a position elected by the youth caucus at our national conventions every three years.

Every provincial and territorial federation of labour has young worker representation in their governing structures or committees.

And most local labour councils also young worker member-at-large positions on their governing structures.

The CLC has a young workers’ working group that meets regularly.

The group is made up of young worker representatives of our affiliates and they help us bring our campaigns to their members.

I recall a particularly great campaign the CLC ran a couple of years ago – the women’s economic equality campaign to highlight the wage gap in Canada between women and men.

Working with the Canadian Federation of Students on university and college campuses across the country, our young worker representative and the committee organized bake sales where the baked goods were sold for $1 to the male students and 68 cents for the women students – an innovative way to highlight the wage gap between young men and women workers.

The CLC’s working group is currently involved in bringing our retirement security campaign to young workers – a pretty big challenge in itself!
I don’t mind telling you – I first became active in my union, the United Steelworkers as a 22 year old apprentice in Trail, British Columbia, because I was angry my union was negotiating pensions.

I thought they should be negotiating higher wages and should drop pensions!

I’ve learned a lot since then of course.

But the lesson for me was how tough it is to bring a pension message to workers just starting out, who have their whole lives ahead of them, with such promise and optimism for the future.

The working group also helps us with bringing our campaign messages to young workers in ways they can relate to – through Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging.

These are the ways of the future for communicating with individuals.
People under 30 these days only use cell phones.

They text more often than they make a phone call.

So, of course unions have to adjust to these new realities to get our messages out, and to mobilize young workers around our issues.

I am also pleased with the work our young workers committee is doing around mobilizing support to press Canada to ratify ILO Convention 138 on minimum age.
This is a great campaign that really engages young people.

The committee members have lobbied our federal politicians to get their support on this important convention.

They have received media coverage on the issue as well.

I know you are going to be discussing the minimum age campaign later in your meeting, so I won’t take up more time on that.

But this is what happens in unions when we give young workers the space they need to develop and run with ideas.

We get great campaign ideas that resonate with not only young workers, but with youth here and around the world.

So once again, welcome to Vancouver and thank you for your hard work and dedication to making our workplaces, our communities and our countries better places to work and live.

(Check Against Delivery)
Speaking Notes for Ken Georgetti, President of the Canadian Labour Congress to the ITUC Youth Committee Meeting

Vancouver Convention Centre
West Building - Room 220
Vancouver, B.C.

Saturday, June 19, 2010
9:00 a.m.