YOUNG WORKERS PLAN LABOR’S FUTURE
Yeah, there were a few opening speeches. But it’s what happened after the speeches that made this gathering different.
At the AFL-CIO “Next Up” conference for young workers, the 400 delegates took charge of the event midway through the first day, breaking into work groups and mapping out strategies to build labor’s future. Lloyd Cargo, one of ten IBEW Local 1245 members attending, said the delegates focused on this central question: “What can we do to get younger people motivated?”
Cargo, a 28-year-old employee of PG&E, was joined at the conference by Local 1245 members Aaron Baker, 31, and Pat Patterson, 33, both of Turlock Irrigation District; Sean Corbin, a 26-year-old Outside Line hand; Sarah Stevenson, 31, and Ryan Morris, 33, both of NV Energy; PG&E Clerical Bargaining Committee members Graciela Nunez, 26, Jennifer Gray, 27, and Lorenso Arciniega, 31; and Local 1245 Business Rep. Elizabeth McInnis, 34.
They all gathered at Weakley Hall on June 17 to share what they had learned with Business Manager Tom Dalzell and to lay plans for putting their newfound knowledge into action.
Pat Patterson said his work group discussed the importance of reaching out to people who don’t want to go to college or don’t have the means to go to college. Unions, he said, could be “part of kids’ (experience) coming out of high school, providing direction where they want to go.”
“College ads are everywhere,” said Ryan Morris, “and we were thinking we need a huge campaign on television of rebranding the union, and letting (young people) know it’s an alternative to college.”
“I didn’t grow up in a union household so I didn’t know what a union was,” said Sarah Stevenson. She noted “a general lack of education” about unions among young people, who have “no concept of what a union is, what it can do for you, and how to organize a union.”
After their debriefing with Dalzell, the young members began mapping out a program for reaching out to young members of Local 1245, including the utilization of new media tools as well as in-the-flesh outreach to the broader community. Dalzell pledged union support for outreach programs.
On June 24, the Next Up team reconvened at Weakley Hall to lay groundwork for a meeting of all IBEW Local 1245 stewards under the age of 40, probably sometime in September.
“We decided to invite all 162 stewards between 18 and 40, and inviting them to invite someone else as well in that age bracket,” said Cargo.
In keeping with their boots-on-the-ground approach, they plan to do mailers, follow up with phone calls, and spread the news in person at unit meetings.
“We all agree that’s one of the most important things—it will encourage a lot more people to show up if they see us,” said Cargo.
Like the Next Up conference itself, the meeting this fall is probably going to look a little different than your father’s union meeting. Cargo said the organizers plan to have breakout groups that give everyone a chance to participate fully. The event could include a band, a comedian, an early finish and a closing barbecue.
Additional meetings have been scheduled in July to continue planning the event.