A Young Local President’s Perspective
by Sharon Bull
The first time I walked into my Local’s AGM I was 24 and I walked out being Local President via acclamation (I was the fourth person asked and the first to say yes). At the time of the election I had a full executive, two weeks later I had my Chief Shop Steward quit and would operate my first year without one. Three weeks’ after the election I was off to Ottawa for my very first USGE Local President’s Conference. I wasn’t sure what to expect!When I met with my RVP on the first morning and found where the other RCMP Local Presidents were sitting my RVP introduced me as the “baby” of the group. You see at 24 I was the youngest in that group and I believe I may have been the youngest President my RVP had ever dealt with. I went through my first two years as Local President signing up for every course I could because I had, and still have, so much to learn. A couple of months after being elected I had the opportunity to go to the first ever PSAC BC Regional Young Workers Conference. Going to that conference gave me the confidence to keep going to union training, union events, and do my best to learn all that I could. At that conference, I remember meeting another young worker who was also representing USGE and we instantly clicked.
I continued to go to PSAC training and I was always excited to meet other USGE activists, but there was never a lot of us. Near the end of my first term as local President I started learning about PSAC Area Councils and Women’s Committees so I also started participating in those. I was selected for PSAC’s 2015 Union Development Program (UDP) and I was rather shocked but excited to have such an incredible opportunity. The UDP allowed me to meet several other USGE activists and I feel so fortunate to have gotten to meet each one as I have learned so much from each of them. I put a lot of time and energy into the UDP. Unfortunately, I suffered a pretty bad burn out that meant I had to take a break from the union world for about 6 months. Afterwards, I started prioritizing and re-evaluating my activities to determine what I felt was most important. I decided I really liked doing regional work which meant going back to my Local. The opportunity came up for me to step back into the President’s role at the Local level for USGE and I was excited to do it!
I felt going into it a second time that I would be much more prepared to be a Local President after all my training. After a couple of months of being the President again I realized that the only constant is that there is a lot to learn! The call out for the BC Regional Young Workers Conference came and I was excited to be able to attend again. One thing that has been constant since starting my union activism is that I enjoy working with fellow young people because its so inspiring and encouraging and every year I make a point of going to this conference. I find working with fellow young workers fills me with so much energy as I’m just like everyone else in the room. We are all at the same stage in life and have a lot in common. I was pleasantly surprised this year as a lot of my fellow young workers I was meeting for the first time. Plus, we had five USGE participants including myself! Over the course of the weekend through speaking with fellow participants I found myself reflecting on what it meant to be part of USGE. During the UDP program there was a comment made regarding component pride! I must admit I had to ask what it meant and thenI got it. I knew what the words meant but I had never really seen it in my travels. We ended up having an amazing conversation about what component pride meant to a younger generation and where does component pride fit into the union sphere?
Well I can honestly say that at the Young Workers Conference, Component Pride really clicked for me. I was surrounded by four of my fellow USGE comrades and it was interesting to hear what they were dealing with and specifically to get a group of RCMP and Corrections workers together and just have informal discussions. The USGE has over 16,000 members grouped together in 140 different Locals so there are a lot of us, all with unique stories and situations, but also with a lot of similarities.At the Young Workers Conference getting to watch fellow USGE comrades with the other young workers from other components come and work together made me feel proud to be part of USGE. For the first time, I felt really grounded in my own component. To me component pride didn’t make a lot of sense until I had the opportunity to take various education courses that weren’t necessarily related to USGE.
Now when I get the opportunity to work with other USGE activists it is much more meaningful because I feel like I have come back to my Local a much more educated activist. I think we should encourage component pride in the spirit of solidarity.Component pride doesn’t mean we are better then anyone else we just want to share when we see something that is being done well and could be helpful to other people. If other components are doing something well let’s share that idea and use it in our component and let’s continue to be vocal about what the USGE does really well!
Part of participating in the Young Workers Conference is attending the BC Federation of Labour Young Workers’ Forum. At the BCFED we had the opportunity to hear from an amazing panel of speakers and then we got to break into smaller groups for Q&A which gave us the opportunity to mingle with other young workers in other unions in our province. It was a lot of fun to talk with other young workers and explain what we do.
The union movement is about solidarity and whether we are working with other USGE activists, other PSAC activists or fellow comrades in the labour movement, it is important to share your component pride. There are so many issues that need addressing in this modern world, and people are constantly suggesting to me that that there is no longer a need for a union. We know that this is bullshit, but I think when we are proud of our union and where we come from then we have the confidence to confront someone when somebody says a comment like that! We are all part of a larger labour movement and we help the labour movement move forward when we step up and show our union pride!