Ohio was well represented at the 2015 AFL-CIO NextUp Summit last weekend in Chicago. Over 1,000 young workers, union activists, and community partners from over 40 states and Puerto Rico, representing every sector of labor, attended the conference March 19th-22nd. The scene at the Hilton, at least to this author, pushed back on the notion that there is a divide between young workers and the Labor Movement. You could feel the energy and enthusiasm for unionism, as well as economic and social justice emanating through the hotel and on the streets of Chicago where young workers held several demonstrations calling for higher wages, immigration reform, student debt reform and an end to discrimination of all kinds, among other issues.
Beyond the demonstrations and actions that took place Saturday morning, workers attended over 80 workshops and plenaries that gave participants the knowledge and space to strategize and map out paths to become more active and win battles for the future. Joining the young workers were the AFL-CIO’s top officers, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler, and AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre. The officers shared the history of the labor movement and provided their visions for the future of the movement- OUR movement.
For President Trumka’s part, he was enthusiastic and optimistic about the progress young workers are making and will continue to make going forward. “We’re going to lift America up,” he said. “And I count my lucky stars every day that I get to be a small part of it; that I get to participate in the fight that you’re going to wage and the country that you’re going to build. This is your day, this is your time, your voice, your power. America needs you and we’re going to stand together and win together. Keep on marching, keep on organizing, keep on educating, keep on voting. Just keep on keepin’ on, until we win.”
Below are testimonials from some of the Young Workers who attended the Summit from Ohio:
“Inspirational. I have never believed more, than at this moment, that real change can and will happen… That the people in that room, no matter who they were, what they look like, where they come from, what they believe or who they love, could, with a shared purpose, lead our labor movement into a better tomorrow.”
Paul Talboo, UWUA Local G-555, District Representative, Young Worker Committee Chairman, UWUA AFL-CIO YWAC Delegate
“I was honored and privileged to have represented the members of USW District 1 at one of the most inspiring, thought provoking and eye opening conferences! The struggle across our nation is real and it gives me renewed hope to know that their are at least 1,000 activists that are committed to putting in the work to make changes for our generation and the ones to come after us! This conference allowed me to see the struggles, trials, tribulations and more importantly the successes of those who have stood up and fought back. I take all their stories with me and will continue to fight for social and economic justice!”
Elva Martes, Next Generation Coordinator , USW District 1, Local 6621
“The next up summit was an amazing experience for me. I am looking to organize a next gen program at my local and this summit had all the info i needed to get me going. The workshops were very informative. The speakers they had there were great! AFL-CIO PREZ TRUMKA his speech was very inspirational. Gov. Ellison and Danny Glover also had great things to say to our group of young workers. I believe that if you are a young worker and you were at this summit you will be making moves forward to better your local, community, and blue collar workers around you. I intend too.”
Stephen Cassanio, IUE/CWA 755