Monday, September 07, 2009

Labor Day: Celebrating the Past, Preparing for the Future‏

Labor Day Weekend. It’s a time for all of America’s working men and women to relax, reflect and rejuvenate. America’s labor movement brought us the weekend, the eight-hour workday, the minimum wage, an end to child labor and much, much more. Labor Day is our day to celebrate our successes, while looking ahead to our next challenges.

This Labor Day weekend, we are taking a moment to reflect on the future of America’s working men of women. Young workers today have lower-paying jobs than they did 10 years ago—those able to find jobs at all. Health care is a luxury, and retirement security is something for their parents, not them.

In fact, 34 percent of workers younger than 35 still live at home with their parents. Low-income young workers are as likely to live with parents as on their own.

A new report by the AFL-CIO and Working America, “Young Workers: A Lost Decade,” finds that the economic meltdown over the past decade has handicapped young workers’ ability to transition into adulthood and financial independence.

After getting married, my wife and I decided to move in with my parents to pay off our bills. We could afford to live on our own, but we’d never be able to get out of debt. We have school loans to pay off, too. We’d like to have children, but we just can’t manage the expense of it right we’re putting it off till we’re in a better place.

—Nate Scherer, 31, lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he shares a home with his wife, his parents and his brother.

The situation facing young workers like Nate is far worse than it was 10 years ago and is cause for alarm.

What do you think it means for our future? Read more about the report on our blog and share your thoughts.

Read the full report. (pdf)

Here are just a few of the report's disturbing findings:

  • 31 percent of young workers report being uninsured, up from 24 percent 10 years ago, and 79 percent of the uninsured say they don’t have coverage because they can’t afford it or their employer does not offer it.
  • Only 31 percent say they make enough money to cover their bills and put some money aside—22 percentage points fewer than in 1999.
  • Seven in 10 do not have enough saved to cover two months of living expenses—a real danger when so many jobs are disappearing.

The future of our country depends on the prosperity of each generation, and while the magnitude of the problems is huge, so are the opportunities. Young workers remain full of hope and want to be involved. As a movement, we must engage proactively with this generation.

Young workers in particular must be given the tools to lead the next generation to prosperity. Our national survey shows just how broken our economy is for our young people—and what’s at stake if we don't fix it.

—AFL-CIO President John Sweeney

As we look to the future this Labor Day, let's all think about what we can do to make our economy work better for the next generation. Keep in mind that one exciting result of our survey is that not only do young people want to be involved, their priorities are even more progressive than the older generation of workers.

Join us on our blog all weekend for Labor Day stories and opportunities to connect.

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Together, we can make a difference.

Marc Laitin
AFL-CIO Online Mobilization Coordinator

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