Unions are not only powerful but incredibly useful right? Wrong.
While some glorify and romanticise the woebegone days of the MUA, it's likely that if you belong to Gen Y unions are little more than a quaint idea. Having worked in random cafes and restaurants on and off since I was 16 (I'm now 26), I've had my fair share of crappy experiences, the unions may have been able to help, but info seems hard to access, expensive and complicated. In a perfect world, these are some of my union fantasies:
1. You boss cops a feel when you're behind the bar trying to dry glasses - you tell the union, they give your boss a ball-numbing wedgy and find you a new job.
2. You haven't been paid for three weeks, you send a txty to your union they come straight over, walk up to the till, take out your cash and stamp on your bosses foot on the way out.
3. You're getting paid cash ($7 per hour) to supplement your meagre Centrelink income, the union is ok with this and haggles the price up to a whole $10! Not only that, but they do all of your Centrelink paperwork and make you a coffee while you wait.
It's likely that unions will never turn these fantasies into reality, but it begs a bigger question - are unions even relevant to young people?
Taking matters into their own hands, Gen Y are using social media to look after eachother and dob in crappy bosses.
This here Facebook Group, the Bad Boss Blacklist: Sydney Casual Worker Information Sharing List is well overdue and something that unions would be wise to support.
Basically, you join and get to dob-in all of the crappy bosses. Already Cinque Cafe and Wheat Cafe, the Randwick stables have had a bad wrap as have Crazy Horse - naming and shaming not only warns of where not to work, but also lets people know which businesses pay casual workers decent wages, and who don't giving them the change to boycott should they care to.
Complaints on the Bad Boss list range from pure racism, unfair cash rates and huge staff turnover to advice on what casual workers should ask before accepting a job. Though the group not without its problems (potential libel, further bullying, privacy etc.), the use of social media to protect young people from exploitation is not only relevant but entirely overdue.
So perhaps its time for unions to enter the brave new world of social media and reclaim their relevancy?