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Union Winter Is Coming (Sorry, We Had To)

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Twice a year, a group of young people participate in a paid internship program with the Victorian union movement. It’s known, alternatingly, as Union Summer or Union Winter. They are sent to union offices where they learn about the day-to-day work of organising and campaigning. 

Around 350 participants have completed the three-week program since its establishment in 2013. 

Stephanie Theusen, now an organiser with the Health and Community Services Union, participated in Union Summer at the start of 2020. Having no experience with workplace organising prior to that, she found it to be a valuable way to gain insight into the nuts and bolts of it.

“It was so great! I went in with no knowledge of union organising, but was very open to everything I might learn.”

Her placement took her to the CFMEU, which she was very excited about.

“I grew up in North Queensland and my dad has been a CFMEU member for my whole life. I knew that they were industrially strong but I didn’t know much about the Victorian branch and I was so keen to find out more. 

“I think the importance of relationship was something I learned. We’d go to sites and sit with shop stewards and you’d get a sense of why the union is so important. The really strong sites had organisers who were in tune with their delegates, HSRs, members, and a real understanding of those relationships.

“I learned a lot about how the work outside of the industrial stuff is so important. The footy clubs, the social programs. And how that doesn’t detract from the industrial stuff, it makes it stronger.”

When asked if she had a message for anyone who might be considering applying, Stephanie’s reply was simple:

“I’d say there’s no reason not to do it if your values align with that of the labour movement.”

“I didn’t know what I was doing, but I knew my values. I just got up every morning with an open mind and now look at what’s happened!”

Now Stephanie is out there kicking goals for mental health workers as a HACSU organiser. She’s playing a key role in stop work actions that the union has been coordinating in the lead up to its big day of action on the 26th. With the industry EBA up for negotiation, workers are standing up for better staffing, better pay and better entitlements. (You’ll be able to read more about this next week in Megaphone Journal.)

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Applications for Union Winter are open now, and you can apply online here.

Twice a year, a group of young people participate in a paid internship program with the Victorian union movement. They are sent to union offices where they learn about the day-to-day work of organising and campaigning. Around 350 participants have completed the three-week program since its establishment in 2013. 

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