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What’s in the State of the Union for Young Workers?

What’s in the State of the Union for Young Workers?

As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka noted, President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night was filled with “eloquent and forceful advocacy for working families,” including combating income inequality, raising wages and strengthening unions. Obama’s address also contained a number of proposals that would have a significant impact on young workers and that also coincide with the recently released AFL-CIO’s youth economic platform.

Here are the six best things he said about issues important to young workers:

Earned Leave

“Today, we are the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers. Forty-three million workers have no paid sick leave—43 million. Think about that. And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick child at home. So I’ll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own. And since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last November, let’s put it to a vote right here in Washington. Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave. It’s the right thing to do.”

Assistance for Child Care

“It’s time we stop treating child care as a side issue, or as a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us. And that’s why my plan will make quality child care more available and more affordable for every middle-class and low-income family with young children in America—by creating more slots and a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year.“

Increase the Minimum Wage

“To everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”


“Tonight, I’m also asking more businesses to follow the lead of companies like CVS and UPS and offer more educational benefits and paid apprenticeships— opportunities that give workers the chance to earn higher-paying jobs even if they don’t have a higher education.”

Free Community College

“We still live in a country where too many bright, striving Americans are priced out of the education they need. It’s not fair to them, and it’s sure not smart for our future. That’s why I’m sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college—to zero…I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today.”

Reduce Student Loan Debt

“I want to work with this Congress to make sure those already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams.”

The youth economic platform also has a number of great proposals to make the economy better for working people. Here are six of them:

  • Strengthen labor law so it’s easier for young workers to organize and join unions to protect their rights and give them a voice at work.
  • Expand President Obama’s community college proposal so everyone can attend free universal high-quality public education.
  • Increase public investment to create good-paying jobs by making sure tax dollars spent on public projects buy American-made, not foreign, goods.
  • Make it illegal to discriminate against someone at work because of their sexual orientation.
  • Don't stop at the minimum wage: make sure everyone has a living wage because no one should struggle to support their family.
  • Strengthen the social safety net. The Social Security payroll tax only applies to the first $117,000 of income for high earners. Scrap that cap so the wealthy pay in at the same rate as the rest of us, and use the money to fund Social Security.
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