But labor's chief problem — one that lowers the relevance of unions today and threatens their viability tomorrow — involves young people. Signs of "too stale" abound — aging membership, aging leadership and priorities and strategies that haven't addressed the issues facing young workers in a dynamic and evolving marketplace. Workers ages 18 to 35 constitute 36 percent of the labor force but only a quarter of union membership.
The causes of the disconnect are many: A tradition-bound labor movement often slow to adapt to changes, scant knowledge among young people of the historic role of unions, labor's decline as a new generation is formulating its views, growing self-identification by young people as contract professionals likely to have multiple employers over their career, and the lack of a youth movement like civil rights in which unions could get involved.
New AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka has acknowledged labor's need to reach out to young workers and adapt to their circumstances — rather than expect a new generation to embrace unions as they are.
More....Among other things, they want labor to broaden its focus from full-time jobs to include part-time work, freelancers and contract workers, she said. They also want labor's political agenda to highlight their priorities, particularly the environment. And labor should communicate more through texting, Facebook, You Tube, Twitter and progressive blogs.
And more..More than one-third of workers younger than 35 live with their parents for financial reasons, and nearly one-third of young workers are uninsured, much higher than a decade ago.
In essence, economic conditions have led them to put their future on hold, and helped produce the first generation projected to not do as well as their parents. Yet, even as their employers get more powerful, more concentrated and more distant, they are told that they are better off fending for themselves as individuals.
Reflect on this for a while and it doesn't seem much of a stretch that these workers — not despite their unchartered job trajectory, multiple employers and often isolated work environment but rather because of these things — just might need an advocate and a collective voice.
• Philip Dine, author of "State of the Unions: How Labor Can Strengthen the Middle Class, Improve Our Economy, and Regain Political Influence," is a Washington-based journalist and a frequent speaker on labor issues.
Last edited by slavenomore; 06-07-2010 at 05:45 PM.