Young Workers Rising

The brand-new Young Worker Advisory Council met in Washington DC last week, as part of renewed efforts within the AFL-CIO to engage the next generation of young workers. There’s a brief article, with appropriate links and more information about it here. I particularly like the quote from Sara Kuntzler, one of the Advisory Council members and political director of the Colorado AFL-CIO:

“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.”

Colorado is an interesting swing-state politically, and the Denver metro area has been the home of some of the most innovative regional labor organizing in the country, led by the Denver Area Labor Federation and the Front Range Economic Strategy Center.

I just discovered the “Next Up” web-site, devoted to being a resource for young workers in the labor movement. One of their videos clearly states the “Next Generation Labor” theme, including the importance of using new technology as an important tool in reaching, mobilizing, and organizing young workers (though the level of ethnic diversity of the participants in this video is less than in the young labor force…):

It’ll definitely be interesting to follow the development of these efforts, as they expand efforts leading up to a second national youth summit in the summer. Engaging young workers effectively is going to require creative and innovative strategies and organizational forms. There is substantial research documenting the ways that younger workers in this generation have been disproportionately affected by insecurity and volatility in employment. For workers aged 25 to 34, the median length of time with their current employer is 3 years. In the late baby boomer generation (those born between 1957 and 1964), the average workers held 11 jobs between the age of 18 and 44. If it is more for this generation of workers, traditional union organizing focused on a collective bargaining agreement will be pretty ineffective for the majority of young workers. So this more “open-source union” culture seemingly being developed through these efforts–appealing to young workers wherever they may be, including communicating through facebook and twitter–seems promising. The challenge, of course, is translating “likes’ on facebook into real change in economic circumstances…

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