UNIONS & YOUNG PEOPLE BUILDING ALLIANCES: AN INTERVIEW WITH TRIA DONALDSON

Tria Donaldson is a CUPE National Communication Officer assigned to Saskatchewan. She completed the Next Up program in British Columbia in its first year in 2008. Next Up is a leadership training program for young social change leaders in several communities in Canada. I sat down with Tria on her way through Saskatoon recently, to ask her a few questions about the labour movement, young people, and her experience with Next Up.

Tracey Mitchell: How did Next Up help you connect to the labour movement?

Tria Donaldson: I always had labour-friendly beliefs but being in Next Up opened my eyes to the potential of the labour movement and connections between labour and social movements. TM: What can young people learn from the labour movement?

TD: Injecting both funding and time into social movement projects is key for the labour movement to connect, not just for young people, but for all activists who don't necessarily see themselves reflected in the labour movement. People need to think about the important values and lessons from the labour movement, but that thinking and analysis needs to be part of a relationship.

For instance, I did Next Up in BC seven years ago and I had a community mentor, who was an awesome trade unionist named Mary Rowles. She was really helpful and interesting & ended up hiring me for a short-term contract with BCGEU. Later, I worked on forestry issues, and my experience with BCGEU helped me make connections with unions. Then, my environmental organization was going through some turmoil, so we actually unionized. Soon after, I went to work for CUPE. Next Up really opened a door to the labour movement for me.

TM: What can the labour movement learn from young social movement activists?

TD: A lot of the most exciting activism in Canada right now is led by youth, whether that's the Quebec student movement, or organizing that's happening in Saskatchewan like DefendUS at the U of S or the Bus Riders Union. The labour movement needs to be constantly thinking about how we're building our movement and how we're achieving our goals because we're facing really big attacks. There's lots of inspiration that can be taken from recent youth-led victories.

Saskatchewan's Labour Movement: the folks who brought you the constitutional right to strike!