by Oscar Cherniak
Service industries thrive on the part-time labour of youth. We, the youth, have the impression that we should be grateful for whatever we receive, because we know how important it is to build a resume, gain work experience and to always have ten bucks in our pockets to fuel the deadly gas guzzling beasts we drive to our minimum wage jobs each day. What many of us don't know is that no matter how lowly we perceive ourselves as being in the great scheme of all things labour related, we also have rights.
There are laws in place to cover hours of work, days of rest, wages and health and safety. I've probably missed a few, but I think you get the idea. We are not just slave wage labour with no right to pursue fair and equitable treatment. Patti's situation was a classic example of a labourer who was unaware of her rights and was being exploited by management.
The second belief that keeps us ignorant of our rights is the idea that we all must walk our own paths. That we will only gain an advantage by looking after our own individual interests, or as most often happens, not looking after our interests. This belief keeps us neatly divided rather than providing en environment where we can work together to ensure that the rights of youth workers are being protected.
I won't say the solution is quick and easy, but it all begins with education. I know that most of you don't want to hear that you should spend your free time educating yourself, but trust me, this isn't like fractal geometry or something that makes you go “huh, how am I going to use this?” This is important information for every day of your working life. There are many websites dedicated to explaining labour laws, and they're explained in everyday language. Check them out, you won't regret it.