If Julie Garrett wasn’t in her union, she says she would be working a minimum wage job with no benefits, barely able to support her 4-year-old daughter.
Young people need to know what we’re facing…corporations are taking over and workers are losing out. If we didn’t have unions, we’d all be working for minimum wage, or much lower.
Garrett, 35, a member of the Federation of Social Workers/IUE-CWA Local 81381 in Rochester, N.Y., and an employee in the Monroe County Department of Social Work, is one of 62 young labor leaders who traveled all over the United States to convene at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C., for the Young Worker Leadership Institute this weekend.
This group of next generation labor leaders, including union members who also are involved in the AFL-CIO's Next Up Young Workers program, will receive hands-on training on organizing, leading and building teams, communications strategies and other skills needed to be involved in their union and encourage other young workers to be more active.
Garrett, who serves as a trustee on the executive board of Local 81381 (a position she filled after her mother retired from the board), is interested in learning how to strengthen the union movement.
I just want to learn ways to get more people involved….Being able to make my union strong is the most important thing.
Sarah Sosa, 25, is a member of AFSCME Local 2822 in Minneapolis. She does clerical work at a local library. She’s hoping her training at the Leadership Institute will allow her to be able to contribute more in tactical discussions in her union and give her credibility with the more seasoned members. She also participates in AFSCME’s young worker program called Next Wave.
On the first Tuesday and Wednesday of each month, Patrick Reardon, 21, hits two labor meetings—one for the Greater Boston Labor Council (GBLC) Futures Committee and the other for his union, Laborers (LIUNA) Local 22. Then, he tries to attend a rally or other event at least once or twice each month.
At Boston Children’s Hospital, Reardon works in construction, doing demolition and refitting.
Reardon says before he joined the union, his experience doing nonunion jobs made him realize the better working conditions he has now.
I’ve been working since I was 13…so I know both ends of the spectrum when it comes to work. You’ve got to fight for everything you have on the job.
When Reardon was a junior in high school, he began GBLC President Lou Mandarini’s vocational program where he learned the trade. Reardon has been a union member for three years. Although it’s not in the immediate future, Reardon says he’s interested in leadership opportunities in his union.
AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker kicked off the Leadership Institute on Thursday evening, saying:
This is a room with a lot of energy…you are actually the future of our movement. We at the federation are so very proud and take very seriously the future of our movement as it relates to young people and getting your involvement and also hearing your voice. There has to absolutely be a place at the table for you and all you do in our movement.
To learn more about young worker programs, click here.
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