Across the world, young people face tremendous challenges that have left many wondering whether they will be worse off than previous generations. High youth unemployment and underemployment, budget cuts and deteriorating public services, and right-wing parties taking power in many parts of the world make it more critical than ever that young workers build power across borders.
At the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Political and Economic Youth Forum hosted this week at the AFL-CIO, young workers from labor movements worldwide compared effective union strategies to counter the corporate economic agenda and right-wing politicians, and build up young worker organizing. The ITUC represents 168 million workers in 155 countries through affiliated national federations like the AFL-CIO. Through the ITUC youth committee, trade unionists from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas joined U.S. young workers and others in demanding a new path forward based on a democracy, equality, shared prosperity, raising wages, economic security and a voice at work.
The AFL-CIO’s NextUp Young Worker program was able to bring in developing leaders/young workers from AFT; Bricklayers; Communications Workers of America; Electrical Workers; Machinists; Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union/UFCW; Theatrical Stage Employees; United Steelworkers; Working America; and others to build global connections and discuss supply chain organizing strategies. At the forum, young workers focused on changing the rules of the global economy, and exchanged ideas and tactics on organizing and mobilizing the next generation of union leadership.
Workers brought their campaign stories, organizing strategies, and messaging and education tools to inspire and challenge each other to take action. Workers organizing under right-wing threats, from the EU to the Philippines to the United States and Tunisia, exchanged strategies for countering false populist messages and defending human and labor rights. To take a break, forum participants joined with the Alliance for Retired Americans to rally to protect Medicare from privatization outside of the Chamber of Commerce.
The forum will serve to launch a global youth economic agenda to support international youth trade union advocacy and action across borders and sectors.
While many young workers may think the economy and political system are stacked against them, they have the power to come together to make change in their unions, workplaces, communities—and even in the global economy.