Teens Take Hold of Their Futures

February 23, 2015

MassCOSH Teens Lead @ Work (TL@W) peer leader Tiana Golding has seen the data and knows that young people suffer higher rates of injury on the job than adults. She also knows that it’s these at-risk workers who will become the next generation of union stewards, presidents, and leaders of the Labor Movement. That’s why this year, TL@W is partnering with the Greater Boston Labor Council (GBLC) Futures Committee to host ‘Organizing Our Future,’ a conference that brings together teens and young adult workers to learn together about their workplace rights and strategies for defending them.

“Teens can bring new energy and ideas [to the labor movement] and need to be at the table,” says Golding. “We provide our own perspectives that older, experienced union activists may not have tried or seen in the past.”

The Futures Committee organizes union workers and their allies 35 years of age and under to improve the lives of working families in the area. By working with the Futures Committee, TL@W peer leaders will be able to build on their own conference they have hosted for teen workers since 2010, where well over 150 young workers have learned about their rights on the job, the importance of unions, and how to stop sexual harassment. These attendees then returned to their communities to lead workplace safety projects based on what they learned.

Yet after a few years of the conference, TL@W peer leaders came to feel that they were insulating themselves from the greater labor movement by limiting the event to teen workers. The peer leaders felt they could increase their impact and promote the creation of a more inclusive labor movement by joining forces with the Futures Committee.

At Organizing Our Future, TL@W peer leaders will lead their own health and safety workshops for attending workers and co-facilitate sessions on the history of the labor movement, understanding sub-contracting, and organizing to achieve workplace change.

“We think that it is important that young people see what the labor movement is really all about, and what has been achieved,” said TL@W Youth Coordinator Colleen Armstrong, who is also a member of the committee. “The peer leaders along with adults can see how together we can build a strong labor movement that ensures safe, decent jobs for workers.”

If you know of any youth or adults who may be interested in attending the “Organizing Our Future” conference, please contact TL@W Youth Coordinator Colleen Armstrong at colleen.armstrong@masscosh.org.