Asher Goldman is the elected convenor of PSA Youth, our largest network with almost 1,500 signed-up members. To add to that, he was recently elected co-convenor of Stand Up, the Council of Trade Unions’ youth movement at its national conference.
Stand Up represents young workers across all the CTU affiliated unions: supermarket staff, miners, journalists, bank tellers, public servants, cleaners, university tutors, early childhood teachers, train drivers, fast food workers, security guards, and so on.
“We’re all part of a union because we know that together our voice is stronger than when we each stand on our own,” says Asher.
“If youth want to have more of a say and more influence, then we need to stand together and make sure that we’re heard.”
The PSA Youth network has certainly been using its voice. Members have been active in the campaigns for youth rates, paid parental leave, DOC cuts, and the Employment Relations Act changes.
Asher presented a submission to MPs on the youth rates bill that had been written by PSA Youth members and is due to do the same with the PSA Youth submission on the employment law changes.
“Having young workers’ voices heard loudly in public discussions, with MPs and in the media is one of the reasons I think PSA Youth is so important.”
Asher is an executive assistant at Parliamentary Service in the Green Party offices, where he’s worked for the past two and a half years. He describes his role as being full of variety and boils it down to essentially running an MPs’ life and having a hand in everything, from organising meetings to policy advice.
“Parliament is a weird place. In many ways it’s an insular bubble with its own post office, gym, swimming pool, cafes and a bar. It can be easy to forget about the world outside.”
It’s the first time he has worked somewhere with a union but he’s supported workplace struggles and campaigns for a long time. In 2003, while working with Palestinian and Israeli youth on co-existence projects in Israel, he was involved with a national day of action over proposed cuts to public sector workers’ pensions.
“We stood at a busy intersection with signs and handed out leaflets to cars. It didn’t feel like we were achieving much but the campaign slogan ‘don’t take away my grandfather’s pension’ stuck with me.”
Closer to home, Asher remembers going to visit friends in Mangere in 2006 and seeing a picket of supermarket workers who’d been locked out by Progressive Enterprises. He was struck at the way the community rallied round.
“I remember dairy owners dropping off cartons of smokes, butchers dropping off sausages, people coming down to help with the cooking, neighbours donating their front lawns and couches for people to take breaks from the picket lines. It was an incredible experience.”
It wasn’t until he heard Andrea Fromm, the former PSA Youth convenor, giving a talk about the network that he began to take an interest. By the time last year’s national conference came around, he had his hand up for the national convenor role.
Asher believes that networks like PSA Youth and Stand Up are important and that meeting other union members is a great way to remind yourself that you aren’t alone.
“Often when we’re engaging with our managers at work, we can feel isolated, especially when things aren’t going well. Meeting other people and hearing that they’ve been through many of the same issues – sometimes successfully, sometimes not – reminds us that we’re just a small part of a much bigger picture.”
This article is from the September 2013 issue of the PSA Journal. You can read back issues of the Journal by clicking here.