Social Justice Week, 8-14 September, 2013
One of my first jobs was cleaning in a home for the elderly. There was a strong union presence. I didn’t think much of [the union] and didn’t see the point of joining at the time. The home for the elderly was a pleasant place to work.
I took all of this for granted. In my second job at a hotel, I found we were not given the cleaning products and tools we needed to do our job properly. My hours were constantly changed without notice. I felt as if I was doing my job to the best of my ability, but every day the manager would tell me off or put me down.
I didn’t want to question the boss even though I knew he was wrong. My fellow workmates felt the same as me. I was the youngest employee, so to see my older workmates just as scared as I was made me feel insecure.
At my uncle’s suggestion, I joined the Service and Food Workers Union and became involved. My experience at the hotel improved and I felt more confident being able to give advice to and support my workmates. The manager continued to put me down every day saying I was lazy and useless – until I handed in my resignation after two years when he told me I was his best worker and asked me to stay to train new staff!
So few young people are involved in unions because there is currently not much awareness or education about what unions can offer … I see the main point of unions as creating and upholding the dignity of workers in their jobs.
Ka’isa Beech is currently a student at Victoria University studying for a degree in Public Policy and Music while working part time. She is a member of the Justice, Peace and Development Commission in the Wellington Archdiocese.