Young people join unions for different reasons. For Janet Constance, it was because she had a bad boss. Janet had been working as a psychologist at the VA hospital in Kansas City, MO, for six years when a new manager took over.
“I got a terrible boss that all of a sudden made working so challenging I thought, man, I’ve never had this trouble before. And so I reached out to the union and said “hey, I wanted to join. Can you guys help?”
Becoming a union member gave Janet a voice that’s important to her job as a doctor taking care of our country’s veterans. She had worked at agencies with no union representation before, and employees were subject to the whims of managers with no contract to set the standards of conduct for both employees and employers.
“You had no influence on anything, and if they even felt like you were questioning something or wanting to know about something, they took it as very threatening,” she explained.
That’s why Janet was thrilled to be part of AFGE Local 910 – so much so that she volunteered to become a steward and was promoted to first vice president when the person who had held the position retired. A year and a half later, she was elected executive vice president. She has just been appointed District 9’s Y.O.U.N.G coordinator to help recruit young workers.
As a psychologist specialized in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Janet prides herself on being an advocate for veterans. As a local officer, she prides herself on being an advocate for her co-workers.
“To me, it scratches that same itch. It’s the stuff I love to do, so it ended up being more similar than I imagined it would be,” she said. “I think to be in a role where you can actually have a voice for your members, for your fellow employees, I have found to be very empowering.”
Other young workers are finding union membership empowering, too. 75% of all workers who joined a union last year were under 35, thanks to innovative initiatives like our union’s Y.O.U.N.G. program, which has helped us reach out to and organize younger workers.
Janet is excited to help find new ways to recruit young people. As a district coordinator, her job is to work with our union’s Women and Fair Practices Departments, which administer the AFGE Y.O.U.N.G. program and reach out to locals to accomplish the goal.
Asked what the most challenging thing facing young people today is, she said it’s the attempts to take away workplace rights and earned benefits that generations of unionists had worked hard or even died for.
Even though more and more young people are joining labor unions, Janet said a lot more need to join if we are to successfully protect important rights and benefits, including job security, health care, and retirement. More young people need to get involved and pay attention to what’s going on.
“I have so many members that say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that.’ So I reply, ‘Remember when we walked in the door and we asked for your email address and you said, oh no ’cause I don’t read that stuff anyway?’ We’ve been emailing you about it.”
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The future of the labor movement lies in the hands of younger generations. Join our Y.O.U.N.G. program and help shape the future!
Young Workers on the Rise