Workers rights tied to colleges
Forum tackles union plights, education
Tefere Gebre, executive vice president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organization, expresses his concern about the current state of workers’ rights and how student involvement is needed. Janae Harris / The Advocate
The Knox Center was full of students and faculty on Monday looking for information about workers' unions in California.
Executive Vice President of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organization Tefere Gebre gave a concluding speech regarding the middle class and workers' unions.
"We need the middle class because you can't have a democracy without a middle class," Gebre said.
The event started with President Denise Noldon's introduction speech. She then introduced board director of the Young Workers of California, Andrea Nicholls.
Nicholls talked about how she started off as an intern organizing hotel workers. When she was young her family had to pay out of pocket for her to see a doctor.
As of today, 7 percent of workers are in a union, and 4 percent of workers under the age of 25 are in a union, she said.
She said, her goal is to get young workers to join a union and to help them to be informed about how a union can benefit them.
"Young Workers of California is not a union. It's an organization of young people who want to be active in a union," she said.
Two speakers later, it was Gebre's turn to give his speech.
He started off saying that he's from Gondar, Ethiopia, and he is all about organized labor.
He showed a slideshow that featured factory workers that are in a union enjoying their job with smiles on their faces.
He went into detail about how America needs to get back its days when organized labor was readily accepted.
The next generation (should) always be better than the previous, but this generation is not living up to its potential, he said.
"We're rebuilding the power that was once in us individually," Gebre said. "America has always taught that the next generation will always be better than the previous, and we need to get back into that."
At the end of the event, the speakers answered questions from the audience which brought the attention of psychology major Tyler McDonald.
McDonald wanted know a little bit more about the program and stayed at the end to ask more questions to the speakers.
"I picked up a lot of things about workers' unions," McDonald said about attending the event. "I would have loved it if they made it a little bit more about education."
The workers' unions are a group of organized workers who use their combined voice in the workplace, and impact wages and work hours.
The event was to help students become aware of what a union is and to inform them of their purpose.
The speakers also gave the audience ideas on how to create a union at their workplace.
Nicholls said she hopes that those who attended the event can start a conversation about a union at their workplace, so the word can spread. "It means a voice on the job, respectful pay and benefits - things that should be basic rights to all workers," she said. "Unions are the major entity that can fight back."
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