What Obama Should Have Said

4 Feb

Andrew Sum, Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University and Paul Harrington, Director, Center for Labor Markets and Policy, Drexel University, writing for the Huffington Post, offered their own version of a progressive State of the Union address that President Obama should have offered last week:

A State of the Union Address for Today’s Labor Market Realities

“Our nation’s teenagers and many young adults ages 20-29 are working at a considerably lower rate today than at any time since the end of World War Two. Absence of work experience in the teen years and early 20s prevents our youth from acquiring marketable occupational skills, solid work habits, the soft skills demanded by employers, and opportunities to interact with adults and observe the skills and behaviors needed to succeed at work. Absence of early work experience will reduce their employment, wages, and training opportunities in their mid 20s. These problems are not confined to young adults lacking college degrees. Too many of our new college graduates are left either jobless or holding jobs that do not utilize the skills and knowledge that they acquired in college, reducing the return on their human capital investments and those of society.

A variety of actions are needed to improve the employment prospects of these young workers. We will work with states and local workforce development boards to expand internship opportunities and paid employment of high school students both year round and during the summer, increase the hiring of career specialists to prepare them to make the transition from high school to the world of work, and work with the nation’s employers to expand new youth apprenticeship opportunities, and provide subsidized employment in the summer for the nation’s jobless at-risk youth. We also will experiment with employer wage subsidies to promote the full-time employment of out-of-school youth, and we shall work with colleges and universities to provide additional internships and cooperative education positions for our college students to facilitate their transition to the labor market upon graduation.”


The Epidemic of This Decade: Youth Unemployment

4 Feb

Businessweek’s cover article this week is on the global crisis of youth unemployment. With protests led by young workers demanding democracy in Egypt, what is it this generation cannot do?  And what is society loosing by derailing their opportunity to enter the labor market?

The Youth Unemployment Bomb:

From Cairo to London to Brooklyn, too many young people are jobless and disaffected. Inside the global effort to put the next generation to work

“An economy that can’t generate enough jobs to absorb its young people has created a lost generation of the disaffected, unemployed, or underemployed—including growing numbers of recent college graduates for whom the post-crash economy has little to offer. Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution was not the first time these alienated men and women have made themselves heard. Last year, British students outraged by proposed tuition increases—at a moment when a college education is no guarantee of prosperity—attacked the Conservative Party’s headquarters in London and pummeled a limousine carrying Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla Bowles. Scuffles with police have repeatedly broken out at student demonstrations across Continental Europe. And last March in Oakland, Calif., students protesting tuition hikes walked onto Interstate 880, shutting it down for an hour in both directions.

More common is the quiet desperation of a generation in “waithood,” suspended short of fully employed adulthood. At 26, Sandy Brown of Brooklyn, N.Y., is a college graduate and a mother of two who hasn’t worked in seven months. “I used to be a manager at a Duane Reade [drugstore] in Manhattan, but they laid me off. I’ve looked for work everywhere and I can’t find nothing,” she says. “It’s like I got my diploma for nothing.”

While the details differ from one nation to the next, the common element is failure—not just of young people to find a place in society, but of society itself to harness the energy, intelligence, and enthusiasm of the next generation. Here’s what makes it extra-worrisome: The world is aging. In many countries the young are being crushed by a gerontocracy of older workers who appear determined to cling to the better jobs as long as possible and then, when they do retire, demand impossibly rich private and public pensions that the younger generation will be forced to shoulder.”

So here is the main question… ignoring the frame of a choice between protecting seasoned workers or nurturing young workers… what can we do to expand job opportunities for young workers? And what can unions do to prevent a lost generation?

The end of the article returns to the standard anti-worker propaganda that minimum wage laws and unions decrease hiring. We know these to be empirically false, but if young workers are looking for institutions to blame how do we make sure this propaganda does not take off and young workers see the labor movement as part of the solution?

AFL-CIO Young Worker Advisory Council Launched

3 Feb

The AFL-CIO is clearly moving on some of the recommendations from the Next Up Summit last summer, launching a Young Worker Advisory Council similar to their other advisory councils on central labor councils and state federations. Here’ s a new post from the AFL-CIO NOW Blog:

Labor’s Next Gen Moves Forward with Young Worker Advisory Council

Photo credit: Joe Kekeris

Nora Frederickson, AFL-CIO Media fellow, sends us this report on the first Young Worker Advisory Council meeting.

The union movement’s young workers are getting ready to shake things up.

Working off of the short- and long-term goals laid out at last summer’s Next Up Summit, the brand-new Young Worker Advisory Council met in Washington, D.C., this week to put together a three-month plan to engage the next generation of young workers.

The council emerged out of discussions held during the Next Up Summit. Young union workers and activists expressed their desire to have a greater voice in the development of AFL-CIO’s national outreach program for young workers.

Following the summit, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, who has made young worker outreach and mobilization a top priority, began a series of conversations on the composition of the Young Worker Advisory Council and how it should inform the union movement’s outreach to young workers. Says Shuler:

When the Executive Council of the AFL-CIO created this council, our hope was to give young activists and leaders a clear voice in shaping the conversation and how to grow and develop the next generation of labor leaders.

Following the first day of discussions, Chris Lane, a public safety officer from Richmond, Va., and president of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 2201, said he was pleased with the progress that had been made since last summer.

I’ve been a member of CWA for 13 years. Obviously this effort is still in the infancy stages, but it’s a breath of fresh air for the labor movement.

Shuler says the council’s first meeting marks a major milestone in our efforts to engage young workers.

I am so excited to meet this incredible group of leaders, and I look forward to the unique perspective that their voices will bring to this initiative.

These efforts came to fruition this week as the more than 20 new members of the council—a diverse group of emerging labor leaders from national affiliate unions, state and local labor bodies, constituency groups and Working America—met for the first time in Washington D.C., this week.

Young Worker Advisory Council members include:

Tahir Duckett – Working America
Sara Kuntzler – Denver Area Labor Federation
Reggie Davis – UWUA
Sherrice Wilfong – APWU
Jessica Ingerick – OPEIU
Chris Sloan _ IUPAT
Jessica Hayssen – Minnesota AFL-CIO
Jeremy Redleaf – AFTRA
Chris Lane – CWA
Michelle Wyvill – IAM
Casey Karns – AFSCME
Nick Guitaud – USW
Allison Doherty-LaCasse – AFT
Joe Briggs – NFLPA
Lorenzo Arciniega – IBEW
Jesse Barber – UMWA
Keith Richardson – APWU
Eric Clinton – UNITEHERE!

The council focused its efforts this week on developing concrete next steps covering four young worker priorities:

  • Developing a toolkit for young workers to use in starting or leading a young worker group at the local levels
  • Connecting young workers with opportunities for training and mentoring
  • Developing a brand that resonates with young workers
  • Identifying new ways to bring young people into the labor movement.

Members also brainstormed the roles of the council, national unions and the AFL-CIO  in the labor movement’s outreach to young workers.

Over the next three months, advisory board members will work with the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions to ensure the Next Up website serves as a resource for young workers managing or starting local groups, survey young workers to find out what kind of mentoring and labor education programs they want access to and examine how to expand existing models for union internship programs and organizer trainings. They will also start planning the next young workers summit, set for this summer.

Sara Kuntzler, political director of the Colorado AFL-CIO and another Council member, put it this way.

We’re at a pivotal moment in the labor movement, and young workers are where the energy is. They are the hope of the movement. It’s so encouraging to work with a group with so much passion, energy, and hope in prioritizing areas of focus for our work with young workers.

Boston Labor Council Organizing Our Futures Conference

3 Feb

Young people are answering the call to organize their peers in Boston with the Futures Committee of the Greater Boston Labor Council holding a conference later this month:

Greater Boston Labor Council’s Futures Committee is putting on: “Organizing Our Future.” The goal of the conference is to foster and develop the skills of young union members to lead the next generation of the labor movement. Workshops will include “Organizing 101” and “Re-Branding the Labor Movement through Multimedia Technology.” Our guest speaker will be Boston City Councillor-At-Large Felix G. Arroyo.

The conference is open to young union members who are 35 years old and younger. We would greatly appreciate it if GBLC affiliates would send representatives from their local unions.

Attendance is FREE. Childcare will be provided upon Request.

Please RSVP to the GBLC Organizer Rosa Blumenfeld by Friday, February 18th, 2011. Rosa can be reached at the office at 617-723-2370, on her cell at 617-460-9821 or via email at rblumenfeld@gblc.us.

Sat. Feb. 26, 10-2:30
Boston Teacher’s Union
180 Mt. Vernon Street Dorchester, MA

Young Trade Unionists Come to DC

3 Feb

We are excited to announce that a DC Chapter of the Young Trade Unionists will be starting up in the Metro DC area next month.  Thanks to a push from Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler and the new Executive Officers of the AFL-CIO to get more young people involved in the labor movement, there have been several groups started around the country.  Now it is our turn!

Our goal is to create a more active young worker constituent in the labor movement.  The advantages of being a Union member go beyond having safe working conditions and benefits- but being able to stand together to improve the lives of fellow Americans.  By creating a space for young workers to learn from each other about the labor movement and each others struggles, we will create solidarity that will ensure the future of the movement will be stronger than ever before.  We already have an incredible history, but now it is our generation’s time to make our mark!

We would like to invite all workers under 35 to join us at our first meeting.  Pizza and sodas will be served and there will be no charge to anyone who attends.  The meeting will be held on February 16th at 6pm at the Painters and Allied Trades Hall, 4700 Boston Way, Lanham, MD 20706.  If anyone has any questions or suggestions, please contact us at dcyoungtradeunionists@gmail.com.

Click here to see the February Meeting Flier.