There's never been a more important time for young workers to join a union

Equality - 12 Aug 2021

Ruth Pitchford, GMB Young Workers Chair, writes on International Youth Day why it is more important than ever that young workers join GMB and get organised

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I’m Ruth Pitchford, and there’s a few things you might not know about me.

I’m the current chair of GMB Young Workers, I’m a very ‘very’ distant relative of leading suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst (just waiting for mum to find that link on ancestry.co.uk and prove it for me!) and I’m an avid fan of trade unions and making sure that young workers are just as valued.

My parents would often talk about trade unions, it wasn’t a topic that was tabooed from our dinner table. My paternal grandfather was a member of the National Union of Mineworkers as a coal miner in the pits and my maternal grandfather was a member of PTU (Plumbing Trades Union, now Unite) due to working as plumber.

My granddad was proud of his membership which would often be a conversation whilst we were at his.

He told us the story of how he made foreman and then got told off for being on the workers' side too much so he got demoted to plumber again - but the bosses never learnt and did that six times.


Five years ago, after a gentle nag and stern finger wag from my mam who was the Branch Steward at the local government branch, I made the choice to become a GMB Member.

GMB membership was something that I didn’t think I’d need or would make much change to my life.

Fast forward five years, and the skills and values that I’ve learnt from being in GMB are something else.

In GMB we're fighting for decent pay, fair rights and a better work/life balance.

Beside my confidence flourishing, which has meant that I’ve been able to stand up at the podium at TUC Congress and speak to BBC News about how the care sector is often left to fend for itself, I’ve learnt how trade unions came about and how all this time later we’re still fighting for the same things; decent pay, fair rights and a better work/life balance.

As a child, my family would often attend demonstrations and protests - especially for the NHS that the Tories to this day are still selling off.

It was only in the last six years that I understood the importance of these and why it’s up to us to take to the streets and demand change.

It can happen and over time, it will happen.

Young workers today, more than ever, need to join a trade union. It’s simple and easy to do.

Young workers who are in trade union recognised workplaces on average have better pay, safer places to work and have better than basic maternity, paternity and carer's leave.

However, for those who aren’t in trade unionised workplaces, it’s down to us to organise.

By recruiting our colleagues and making them aware that things can be better within the workplace - we'll make a difference.

Especially when we work together.

There’s strength in numbers, and you’re never on your own when you have the trade union behind you.

Did you know:

These are all serious issues - and all issues that trade unionism and working together can change.

As Lin Manuel Miranda wrote, ‘this is not a moment, it's the movement.’

Young Workers aren't a moment in the trade union - we are part of the movement like everyone else.

Ruth Pitchford
GMB Young Workers Chair

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