Unions were formed during the very hardest of times; child labour, no time off, no protection from deadly job hazards, pay that couldn't keep one person fed - let alone a whole family.
When trade unions first started they were an answer for desperate people trying to survive in a very tough time. During the decades after unions finally won the right to exist, governments have since enshrined many of the things union activists
fought for - health and safety protection, overtime provisions, sick leave. Many workers take such protections for granted now. But economic hard times, albeit not as hard as a century ago, may be inciting today's workers to take a serious second look at unions. If the only job you can get nowadays is a lowpaying one in the retail or service sector, and it looks like you're going to be stuck in that job for several years, you might be thinking a little job security would be a good thing.
Generation Y people - those born between 1980 and early 2000s - may look to unions as a way of gaining some economic stability in their lives. Facing large student debts, and little chance to get a foothold in what unions are terming 'quality' job fields, young workers might just sign up. At least that's what union leaders are hoping.
Our view is a little different. We don't see today's young workers looking to unions as a tool in their economic plans. Like most folks, they're far more interested in hockey and planning for their next vacation - or cruising the internet.
No, times are just not tough enough now for folks to stick their necks out and bring a union into their workplaces. Will that change? Perhaps. When more workers get less of everything the scale may tip in favour of unions. But that time is not now. And, in our opinion, union leaders shouldn't bet their union investments on it.
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