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'Next Up' Summit brings hundreds of young workers to Minneapolis
More than 700 young workers are gathered in Minneapolis for a summit that organizers hope will inject new energy into the labor movement and put a focus on jobs.
The ‘Next Up’ Young Workers Summit, coordinated by the AFL-CIO, runs from Thursday through Sunday at the Minneapolis Hilton. Participants include young union members, non-union workers and activists.
“It has been a rough couple of years” for young workers, said national AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, who will keynote the conference. “Unemployment for young people is alarming” – double the national rate of 9 percent. Student loans are a big burden for many young people.
“In many ways this truly is becoming what some people are referring to as the lost generation,” said Shuler, speaking to reporters in a conference call last week. Their job opportunities are limited by "concerted attacks against jobs that offered young people a ladder into the middle class – teaching, public service . . ."
Yet participants in the summit will offer reasons for hope, Shuler said.
“Young people are not just standing around waiting for elected officials to show up. They’re not just standing around waiting for others to solve their problems. They’re organizing . . . They’re on the front lines calling for good jobs.
“All over the world, from Egypt to Wisconsin, we are seeing young people leading movements.”
Organizing for change
The conference agenda illustrates the many ways young people are active. It opens Thursday afternoon with a community service activity to create back-to-school care packages for a community center.
Workshop topics range from “Standing in Solidarity with Immigrants” and “State Battles: We Are One,” to “Building a Cross-Generational Labor Movement” and “Using Social Media.” Part of the summit is unscripted and participants will have the opportunity to plan their own “unconference” on issues they identify.
The summit also features some celebrities. Actors R.J. Mitte from the TV show “Breaking Bad” and Lucas Neff, star of the Fox sitcom “Raising Hope,” are scheduled to appear, with Neff set to share the stage in the final session with national AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
While the summit is a high-profile event, it builds on efforts already under way to involve more young people in the labor movement, Shuler said. The labor federation established a Young Worker Advisory Council to give the next generation a greater voice in union decision-making, she said. Some 21 states have young worker groups, with more planned.
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