Youth Columnist speaks up on SAFE work environments

by Michael Champagne

Once upon a time, I did a presentation to a group of young people in the North End about health and safety. I told them about how hey had worker rights, about how workers compensation works, and how they can spot and deal with hazards in their workplace. I was able to work with this same group a couple of times and was able to build a nice comfy relationship with the group It also helped that I knew one of these young people from my other work that I do in the North End. Now, months and months had passed since this presentation had been done, but just yesterday, I received a text message from this young person and said he needed to speak with me urgently. He said: “im ok its just my friend he works at ________ and he has massive burns on his hands from working there…he doesn’t want to do anything about it cuz he doesn’t wanna lose his job“. At this point I tried setting a time in the next couple days to meet and chat about it.

I still haven’t had a chance to deal with it in person yet but this is something that enrages me. This is an example of an employer creating an environment of fear in workplaces where, when young people DO get hurt, they feel afraid to do something about it. They will continue to go through the injuries because they are afraid of losing a job.

I am of the opinion that there is no job that is worth your health and safety. A young people, we have a very important example to set. If we walk into a workplace (or any situation for that matter) and allow ourselves to be taken advantage of, injured or silenced, that makes us feel like crap. I don’t want my nephews and nieces, the little ones in my life, the next generation of workers to have to deal with any unsafe situations. Many people in workplaces that have been there a long time, will say things like ‘That’s just the way it is’ and imply that there is nothing that can be done to improve the unsafe situations that constantly cause harm to employees.

I will never be silent and will never accept that ‘that’s the way it is‘. The health and safety of our communities, of our next generation is too important for me to just give up and look the other way. I won’t. Because the young ones in my life deserve better. And so do you.

If you haven’t had a chance to learn about what is happening internationally with Canada and Asbestos, you should follow this link. (For the record; I am disgusted with Canada’s position on this issue.)

 Michael Champagne works for the SAFE Workers of Tomorrow, and is a member of AYO!, (Aboriginal Youth Opportunities), a network of young leaders from the North End.

A note from AYO!:

“We stand together and learn from each other. We began in March 2010 and committed to working together. This group is just us young people volunteering. Our method of operating is writing letters of support to see who we can work with to strengthen this network of young leaders that are committed to helping our community get better; to see who wants to provide Aboriginal youth with opportunities to be awesome.”

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