Sophia Halas has been awarded Unifor 2000’s annual $1,000 Harold Dieno scholarship. Entrants were asked submit essays on the topic “Do you think the recent unionization of some Amazon and Starbucks employees will help unions appeal to a younger generation?”
Sophia tells us that her dad, Rick, has been a local union member for 10-plus years, working at the Tri-City News. Sophia has been accepted to the University of the Fraser Valley.
Harold Dieno was a dedicated and active member of ITU/CWA Local 226, one of 2000’s predecessor locals, from 1954 until the early 1990s. He passed away in 2017 at age 93. He was known as an exemplary leader who was kind, wise, honest and generous.
Here’s Sophia’s essay:
Unions have been around for a very long time, but not everyone knows what they are, especially the youth of today. Unions are organizations of people put together to protect the rights of workers. They help ensure proper conditions are met, and support to the worker is given. To give an example, if a worker feels they are being treated unfairly by their employer, the worker can put in a complaint to their union, and the union will investigate to ensure the worker gets the fair treatment they are entitled to. Unionization of companies like Amazon and Starbucks will help unions appeal to the newer generations. It will do this by exposing them to what a union is, providing better working conditions, and allowing word to spread.
Having many young workers, Starbucks is a typical entry level job. The workers mainly consist of college-aged students. The least common age of people working at Starbucks are those 40 plus years old. The most common are individuals aged 20 – 30 years old (zippia.com). With the unionization of Starbucks these young individuals will get experience working with a union and having the ability to turn to it for help. Amazon provides exposure for the same age demographic. The typical Amazon worker is also 20 – 30 years old.
These large companies are in clear view of society and they exert a certain cultural influence. Young adults aged 18 – 24 make up 40% of Starbucks revenues every year (www.brandongaille.com). 53% of Amazon consumers are aged 19 – 44 (www.nypost.com). When these companies chose to unionize the consumers became aware quite quickly. The ubiquity of these companies draws attention to working conditions, and how they can be improved with unionization.
Young people for the most part are looking to pay for university tuition, buy their first car, pay for living expenses, meanwhile maintaining an active lifestyle away from work.
Workers in a unionized setting could expect higher wages, more paid hours, better safety measures, and decreased staff turnover. Therefore, workers have a greater chance of affording their respective expenses and are less likely to be injured at work.
Covid-19 has been a large contributing factor to the unionization of many companies. Young workers became frustrated by the lack of compensation for their hard work. Having to face customers with no masks, not having access to protective gear, and having to work long hours made many realize the dangers present every day. The lack of hazard-pay was the tipping point for many workers to realize they needed more compensation if they were to continue working.
In conclusion, younger people, both consumers and workers, are being exposed to the positives that unions can provide. It will allow people the chance to explore what a union is. These unions will protect workers from overwork, low pay, and safety concerns. Early exposure to unionization may encourage workers to seek more union jobs later in life, and form an idea of what a healthy workplace should look like.