IEUA NSW/ACT Branch recently welcomed two interns learning more about the union movement through the Union Summer program.Union Summer is an annual program run by Unions NSW, which aims to bring young activists into the union movement.
It’s designed specifically to introduce young people to unionism and give them first hand experience of what unions do. It’s also an opportunity for young people to contribute to building the union movement in NSW, and to develop their campaigning and activist skills.
About 30 young people are undertaking the program this year. As well as receiving some training from Unions NSW, they spend two weeks embedded with a specific union.
Mia Dabelstein and Phoebe Yang joined the IEU in early February and spent time with legal, industrial and communications staff to learn how different aspects of the Union operate.
Phoebe is studying Commerce/Law with a major in Finance at Sydney University.
She said unionism was not always well understood by students in her faculty, and the internship was opening her eyes to the wide variety of opportunities a law degree could offer.
“Many people leave high school wanting to go into Law to do good, but by the time they finish university it’s all about the ‘big six’ and the corporate world,” Phoebe said.
“This internship is showing me there are so many different ways you can use a law degree.”
Phoebe said coming from a migrant community that was not always well represented in Australian society, she appreciated the role unions play in giving a voice to the underdog.
“I think it would be a great advantage to my community to get more involved in the union movement.”
Mia is studying Communications with a major in Social and Political Science at UTS and as the Women’s Officer runs the Women’s Collective.
As part of her course she undertook a project on the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) and during this project she became enthused by the union movement.
“Unions are a perfect intersection of social justice – they provide a platform to protect people from all types of discrimination in the workplace, while making sure employers respect workers’ rights and protect pay and conditions,” Mia said.
“Historically unions have been instrumental in so much social change.”
Mia was inspired by the history of green bans and the work of activists such as Juanita Nielsen, who fought against development in the Kings Cross area, then disappeared in 1975 under mysterious circumstances, Also by Jack Mundey, who led the Builders’ Labourers Federation in the green bans to prevent development in The Rocks area of Sydney.
Mia said she definitely wants to work for the union movement upon graduation but is still working out in what capacity.