As my time at my internship comes to a close, I am reflecting on my time here as a whole. This was the most in-depth experience I’ve had with grassroots organizing. I spent every day going door-to-door talking to voters about the Save Our Public School campaign, having personal conversations with bank workers to discuss concerns they might have involving wages or scheduling, and attending protests and actions to stand in solidarity with other social justice causes such as Black Lives Matter and the Fight for $15.
I took this internship to get a sense for what area of politics/organizing I want to pursue. I’ve been able to explore the bottom up approach more this summer, and if we’re being honest, I can’t say right now that I came to a conclusion about what I want to do. I’ve had an incredibly hands on experience getting to talk to people about the concerns that they have, trying to make a stir and catch the attention of top level decision makers. As of now, I think this has been more fulfilling than my experiences at the “top down” level, but it’s difficult to say because obviously every job and office is very different.
One of the great things about this internship program is the weekly training series that educates us on different skill sets in this line of work. We did one focused on how to develop and communicate to the public a message that is clear, powerful, and leaves enough of an impression to make change. Speaking with the leader of the workshop about how she developed tools surrounding marketing and communications made me realize that this could be an avenue that fits my interests. I was able to dabble with some marketing earlier on this summer when I created images and infographics to support a campaign for university adjunct professors. Trying my hand at marketing for social justice organizations could be the two things I want in a job – creative work while making positive change in the world. I’m a bit surprised that I actually came out of this summer with a new(ish) type to work to look into and I’m excited to do so!
For me, the most powerful moment of the internship was when we were having a meeting surrounding strategy for carrying out one of our workers’ rights campaigns. One intern asked about giving out a card with our organization’s contact information on it, and one of the employees at JWJ came out strongly against it, warning that a boss finding a card like that could jeopardize the worker’s very job (we are constantly aware of the anti-union practices that some companies carry out). She spoke passionately about this and at one point said, “The work we do is important, but the work they do is everything to them.” This hit me hard and was a reminder that I’m so, so lucky to have the privilege of entering a line of work that treats me well, and the privilege of leaving if it ever doesn’t. Many workers are mistreated, receive low wages, are forced to work long hours, and face discrimination, among so much more. The work we do is important, and I hope to always do important work, but this was a powerful moment that reminded me of the reality of the situation and that I am working with people, for them, not above them.
Written by Megan Flynn, BC Class of 2017