Blog | Future of Work

Young Workers on the Future of Work: Courtney Jenkins

Courtney Jenkins
Courtney Jenkins

The AFL-CIO conducted a discussion last month on the future of work. Among the panelists that day were a group of young workers. Let's continue our more in-depth discussion with these young workers. Next up is American Postal Workers Union (APWU) member Courtney Jenkins.

AFL-CIO: What barriers do you think stand in the way of young people becoming fully participating members of the workforce?

Courtney: The most formidable barrier young people face is the current economic climate. As corporate greed continues to grow, many jobs are not attractive or appealing to young people trying to fully participate in today's workforce. 

AFL-CIO: What issues and challenges do young workers face that the rest of us might not recognize?

Courtney: Whether it's child care, health care or student debt, it seems like everything today comes at a price. Many employers don't understand, or care to empathize, with young people who have these types of challenges because they weren't as prevalent a generation ago. 

AFL-CIO: What inspired you to organize/form/join a union?

Courtney: I was inspired by the power of collective bargaining and action, recognizing that being a young black male, my voice alone may not resonate as much as my voice along with hundreds of thousands of my sisters and brothers of the American Postal Workers Union. I joined and continue to be active within my union because of the many unionists who have fought who came before me and the many who I fight for now who will come after me. 

AFL-CIO: What can the labor movement do to rally more workers to join unions?

Courtney: The labor movement can be more intentional about reaching out to young workers just coming into the workforce. That first contact matters and continuing education matters to working people, whether they belong to a labor union or not. Most people have been so demoralized by an economy that doesn't work for them, and because of this their time is valuable, spending much of their disposable time, if any, working. The labor movement has to continue to develop ways to reach working people where they are. 

AFL-CIO: What can young workers do to better prepare themselves for success in a changing economy?

Courtney: Young workers can first support their labor unions and if not members, young workers need to join up or start helping to organize their workplaces. We need to also educate one another on the benefits of labor unions and their positive effects on our workplaces and communities. To better prepare ourselves, we should be demanding better training to ensure we are prepared for jobs in this changing economy, while also protecting those jobs that greedy corporations consider expendable.

Explore the Issue