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Young and active reps

Usdaw has more than six hundred reps aged under 27 who are working hard across the UK to support Usdaw members.

We caught up with some of the most promising young activists of 2016 at the Union's National Organising Awards in January.

Tom Hemmings - Southern Division

Delivery driver Tom works for Tesco in Sandhurst, where he's the youngest rep in a team of six who look after 500 members. "I find the best method of recruitment is word of mouth," said Tom, 23. "If you're a good rep then word spreads like wildfire.

"I became active in 2013. I was trying to get on an engineering course but it was cancelled due to funding. I became a rep and enjoyed it so much that I lost interest in my original career plans."

Tom is a member of the Southern Divisional Young Workers' committee who recently won the Divisional Team Recruitment and Organising Award nomination. "There's a lot of obstacles preceding young people and we want to break those barriers down.

"The committee have spoken at divisional conferences and workshops to promote the issues faced by young workers.

"I'm currently studying for a degree in International Labour and Trade Union Studies thanks to Usdaw's ‘Chance of a Lifetime' scholarship scheme. Eventually I'd like to work for the trade union movement, but as long as I can wake up each morning and make a difference to someone's life then I'm happy."

Ricky Brown - Southern Division

Branch Secretary Ricky works for B&Q at the distribution centre in Swindon. He's been a member for five years and a rep for three.

"Most of the members on our site are in their early '20s," said Ricky. "They seem to identify better with the younger reps, myself included."

The 26 year-old has been involved with the Divisional Young Workers' Committee since 2015. "Being part of Usdaw has increased my confidence by a mile. It's opened lots of doors and now I'm excited about the future.

"It's essential that young workers become members and get active because they'll be the next generation of the Union.

"I take a personal responsibility in my own site to build the young membership, and I would do the same nationally if I had the time."

Russ Jones - Midlands division

Shopworker Russ is part of a team of three reps at Morrisons in Bromsgrove. He's been a rep for two and a half years and last year he graduated from Academy1. "I really enjoyed it," said Russ, 25. "I was the newest and youngest organiser from the Midlands so I learned a lot from everyone else and it made me want to get more involved. I've applied for Academy2 this year so fingers crossed."

Russ became a rep to complement his degree in Politics. He's also branch secretary and a member of the Midland's Divisional Young Workers' Committee. "We recently carried out a campaign to make the public aware of the issues faced by young workers," said Russ. "We were also able to link it in with the Freedom From Fear campaign which worked out well.

"Being a rep is a great boost to your confidence and skill set and I think promoting this fact to young workers is a good way to get them involved. It's a great role to have on your CV or on a university application."

Jade Rutherford - Scottish division

Call centre worker Jade is part of a team of 10 reps looking after 1,000 staff at the Tesco site in Dundee. She is also the Branch Secretary and a member of the Scottish Divisional Young Workers' Committee. "We're busy all day every day with union duties," said Jade. "I rarely get to do my day-to-day role."

Jade has worked for Tesco for eight years and was elected a rep in 2011. "I was inspired by another rep to get involved," said the 25 year-old. "I get an absolute sense of satisfaction from being able to support others. Sometimes it's just the simple things like letting people know their rights and entitlements.

"We're very privileged in the call centre because we can reach all of our members by email so it's easier to set up campaign days and recruit new members.

"I think it's important for young members to settle in before becoming a rep. I think members should get involved in branch activities first.

"I love being a rep. In the future I'd like to complete the Academy."

Graham Menzies - Scottish division

Nightshift worker Graham has worked for Tesco for eight years and been a rep for a year.

"I became active because I wanted to protect young workers' rights," said Graham who lives in Dundee. "I also come from a trade union family, my dad is a rep for the Communication Workers' Union."

The 26 year-old is the youngest rep in a team of six. "I feel quite lucky with our team. We have a good mix of old and new reps.

"There's no doubt that young workers should be in Usdaw. I know people say ‘we don't need it, we can fight for ourselves' but it's not just about representation, they need to know what else we can do for them."

Graham recently won the divisional organising award nomination for Most Promising New Activist. "The Organising Awards is an absolute positive for everyone," said Graham. "It's great to celebrate the work that reps do, it's all about supporting each other.

"In terms of my future, I've applied for the Academy this year so I'm just waiting to hear about that."

Leanne McAdie - Scottish division

Tesco rep Leanne is part of a team of four reps looking after 130 members in the Orkney store. She was elected in 2015.

"When I started work I was quite shy," said Leanne, 26. "In my role as a rep I've had to speak to people so it's forced me out of my comfort zone and increased my confidence.

"It's amazing how much the Union can do for you, which I wouldn't have known if I didn't become a rep. I think we need to work harder at getting the information out there.

"I'm biased because I just automatically think you should be in a union, my mum's always been a member. It's your insurance at work and there's always going to come a time when you need a little bit of support and help.

"As reps people come to us with anything, it doesn't matter if we can help them or not, members usually just need someone to listen to them and give them a bit of guidance, and that's what it all about."

Want to get more involved?

Be a rep
If you're interested in becoming an Usdaw rep then speak to your workplace rep, contact your local office or use the online form for more information.

The National Young Workers' Weekend
If you're looking for an opportunity to learn more about Usdaw, discuss the issues facing young workers and meet other young reps from around the country then the National Young Workers' Weekend in November comes highly recommended. Contact your local Usdaw office for details.

Divisional Young Workers Committee
If you're interested in representing young workers in your division and campaigning for their rights then get in touch with your Divisional Young Workers Committee.

Contact your Young Workers' Coordinator or local Usdaw office for more information.

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The official website of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers