Strong NJ Presence at National AFL-CIO Young Workers' Gathering in Chicago

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Success! The biggest gathering of future labor leaders in the country happened March 19-22 in Chicago, with New Jersey’s delegation of State AFL-CIO executive officers and young workers from affiliated unions called upon to play key roles in the Next Up Summit.

The summit brought together more than 1,000 young workers from across the country. The participants, who represent the future of the labor movement, experienced an energizing mix of leadership development, labor education, mentoring and networking.

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New Jersey’s Young Workers Advisory Committee, the Passaic, Bergen and Mercer Central Labor Councils, and New Jersey State AFL-CIO’s top officers represented New Jersey. The New Jersey State AFL-CIO was invited to share its experience and knowledge about starting a Young Workers Program, since our program has already made incredible strides.

New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech led a workshop titled “Promoting Generational Unity” Secretary-Treasurer Laurel Brennan led a workshop titled “Navigating the Labor Movement as a Young Worker.” Communications Coordinator Lee Sandberg, a young worker himself, facilitated breakout meetings with New Jersey delegates along with Adam Neuman of IBEW 94 and Alicia Bruce of OPEIU 153.

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New Jersey’s Young Workers Program is a model for investment in labor’s future. Three Central Labor Councils have begun their own initiatives for young workers, with more to follow. The Passaic County Y.E.S. (Youth Engagement in Solidarity) has an active social media presence. (The summit was live-tweeted by us and others using the hashtag #1uNextUp.) Our Young Workers across the state are engaged in voter registration and elections, and legislative battles ranging from affordable education and in-state tuition for DREAMers to earned sick leave and “Buy American” bills.

Our future organizing success will depend on recruiting, training and empowering a new generation of workers. Together, we are building a stronger, more inclusive and more enduring workers movement. We are pleased to be at the forefront of the national AFL-CIO’s outreach efforts to engage new leaders for tomorrow.

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