North Texas Sends One to AFL-CIO Youth Summit

Stephen BenavidesWith encouragement and a small contribution from North Texas Jobs with Justice, Stephen Benavides set out to send himself to the national AFL-CIO Youth Summit in Minneapolis on the weekend of September 30.

He wrote: " Reference:

'During the Texas AFL-CIO Labor Day Breakfast, [Dallas AFL-CIO leader] Jim McCasland asked for all union members or organizers under 35 to stand up. Out of over 500 in attendance only 4-5 stood.

'This raises the important question of who will be there to organize and fight for workers rights when the current generation begins aging to the point where they are unable to attend to the day to day tasks required to ensure that the American Middle Class is made secure. The answer is of course those 4-5 people who stood. I was one of them.

'I have years of activist experience, and now realize that after a few weeks of Union organizing that those skills need to be honed to the specific task I have been given: Increasing Union Membership within United Steel Workers Local 9479 and the AFL-CIO generally; Representing public and private employees during grievance procedures and contract negotiations, and fighting for the rights of workers to collectively bargain in all states in the United States (to name a few).

'In order for the effort to be successful young workers must first be trained, of which the Young Workers Summit is such an opportunity. Then we must be allowed to target the upcoming
generation of workers in ways that highlight our skills and abilities.(social media, developing new strategies, and tailoring the political message to fits the times). '

'I am proposing the AFL-CIO Training to our Local President, but am also asking for any funding from supporting organizations or Unions, who are willing to contribute. Below I have priced the
trip at current cost. I have also attached my resume, just in case your interested about my education and work experience. "

His employer, United Steelworkers of America, came through with the rest of the money he needed for the trip. As far as he could find out, he was the only one from our area to go.

The Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO, Liz Shuler, herself the youngest top union officer in history, gave the opening address. According to an AFL-CIO blog, she said that the economic and social problems, the hate and the fear we see around us today can only be solved by a fresh generation of committed, smart, tireless and creative activists.

In her keynote address to the conference Shuler said the situation in the global economy is dire. Massive change is needed to turn it around.  Young workers are being told to “suck it up” and live in a world without jobs, she said. We’re being told that America can’t afford teachers—but we can afford CEO tax cuts. We’re being asked to accept a society that rewards wealth and punishes work. A society that makes it harder for young people to go to college. A society where hate is growing and targeting people of color, people of different faiths, people who are LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer], immigrants–it’s shameful. Shuler  urged the participants to create coalitions back home to build a movement to take back the American Dream.

Also speaking at the Summit, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis asked the young workers to take a leading role in getting out the vote and moving the message to pass the jobs bill and fight back against attacks on education funding, Pell grants and health care.

North Texas' delegate Stephen Benavides is expected to write a summary report when he returns.