A subject that has long concerned unions, and therefore Unions21, is how we recruit the next generation of members.
Recent joint TUC/Unions21 commissioned focus group research uncovered a number of distinct and clear barriers that prevent young people from joining the union movement.
These were categorised into four main themes: Lack of awareness, Lack of ‘push factors’, Lack of ‘pull factors’ and Repellent factors (download the full research report for detail on these)
In the last category – Repellent Factors, young people said they found it difficult to identify with union members. Unions were seen as militant, old fashioned, and aggressive, which turned the young people we spoke to off.
Furthermore, there was a fear of isolation in being the only person in the workplace who might join a union.
When asked to draw a picture of a trade unionist, the image above is the sort of thing they came up with.
In a small way, Unions21 has hoped to help tackle the problem of misinformed union stereotypes this week by launching a number of videos featuring young members. In each one the slogan ‘Hundreds of thousands of young people in Britain are trade union members’ is used. In December Unions21 will take an exhibition about the contribution young people make to unions to the House of Commons.
Only by making a sustained and concerted effort to tell the stories of young people involved in the union movement can we change the drawing of a ‘typical’ union member above, to look more like the young people in this video: