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Labor unions need to be on college campuses by Danny Rivizza-guest blogger

Danny Rivizza got my attention on the phone when he was making calls for me to vote for Christine Quinn in the primary. I told him I had already voted and it wasn’t for his candidate. We then began speaking further and I was so impressed with his enthusiasm I asked if he would be a guest blogger, and here is what he has written:

Labor unions need to be on college campuses if they are ever going to recruit young workers into an aging workforce and labor movement.
If they don’t, the consequences will be dire for the American economy and the institutions of organized labor that protect and enhance that economy.
Today young workers are faced with massive unemployment, no job security, few (if any) health benefits, and increasingly informal and temporary work positions. As manufacturing has eroded, service and professional industry jobs have grown due in large part to NAFTA and other destructive globalization efforts. With an aging membership base that will soon be retiring, organized labor must work to replenish their ranks with fresh faces and new minds.
According to a 2010 longitudinal study done by Industrial Labor Relations Review, the highest rate of unionization amongst young works takes place a year after they graduate from a degree granting institution- be it a high school, a 2 or 4 year college, or a technical certificate. College campuses are where young people go not only to discover themselves and their world, but to get the training they need to one day attain a living wage job. Gathered by the thousands in dorms, commuter parking lots, and campus centers, they dread joining the “real world” after discarding their graduation gowns.
I don’t blame them. I am one of them.
Many of them work their way through school. Many hold low-paying service sector jobs to help parents out with tuition costs. Many take on herculean amounts of debt in order to join the scores of college graduates that now face a stagnant and hostile job market- all in the hope of attaining some sort of job that will allow them to have a family, pay their bills, and get on with their life.
Many fail to achieve gainful employment and are marooned in their parent’s basements- toiling through their days in low-paying jobs to keep Sallie Mae off their backs while attempting secure something that may have mirrored their parent’s experiences.
The terminus of years of statewide de-funding of healthcare, federal law that established they have been exiled to “extended adolescence”- a purgatory between their halcyon days at school and a self-sustaining adult.
Bound by ever increasing tuition, particularly at state colleges and universities, students are saddled with more debt each year. Here in Connecticut, changes in health care plans shift risk downward on students- a population that has already absorbed massive tuition increases and dwindling financial aid. Budgets get cut, less class become offered, class sizes grow larger, and working class young people are shut out from obtaining their sheepskin, even from what some regard as diploma mills.
Labor unions must meet the next generation of workers on the campus- but not at your Yales, your Wesleyans, or your Harvards. Community colleges and state colleges, many times the most affordable place to get your degree, gather thousands of working-class youth.
We are energetic and eager.
We are hard-working.
We are open to new ideas and aware of shifting paradigms.
We are starving for some sort of structure that will give us a sense of economic tranquility in an increasingly de-centralized, informal, and unstable economy.
We reside in one physical location.
If SEIU can organize late-shift nursing home workers, if the Steelworkers could break through language barriers with immigrant populations in Pittsburg, if UAW could organize a casino in a separate sovereign nation-
There is no reason we can’t organize students.

Danny Ravizza, of New Haven, CT, has been described as a ‘lobbyist who lays in traffic,’ and can be found bruising his knuckles on front doors in boulevards and cul-de-sacs across the Northeast.
You can connect with him on FB & Twitter.

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This entry was posted on Monday, September 23rd, 2013 at 5:00 pm and is filed under Clients, Friends and Colleagues. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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