‘Young Workers: A Lost Decade’

(I had this story bookmarked to do but since this is such a good diary I’ll just promote it to the front page.

John – promoted by John Morgan)

Something bad happened in the past 10 years to young workers in this country: Since 1999, more of them now have lower-paying jobs, if they can get a job at all; health care is a rare luxury and retirement security is something for their parents, not them. In fact, many-younger than 35-still live at home with their parents because they can’t afford to be on their own.

These are the findings of a new report, “Young Workers: A Lost Decade.” Conducted in July 2009 by Peter D. Hart Research Associates for the AFL-CIO and our community affiliate Working America, the nationwide survey of 1,156 people follows up on a similar survey the AFL-CIO conducted in 1999. The deterioration of young workers’ economic situation in those 10 years is alarming.

Nate Scherer, 31, is among today’s young workers. Scherer lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he shares a home with his wife, his parents, brother and his partner.  He spoke at a media conference at the AFL-CIO today to discuss the report.

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 now…so we’re putting it off till we’re in a better place. My [work] position is on the edge, and I feel like if my company were to cut back, my position would be one of the first to go.

During yesterday’s press briefing, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka summed up the report’s findings this way:

We’re calling the report “A Lost Decade” because we’re seeing 10 years of opportunity lost as young workers across the board are struggling to keep their heads above water and often not succeeding. They’ve put off adulthood-put off having kids, put off education-and a full 34 percent of workers under 35 live with their parents for financial reasons.

Just last week we learned that about 1.7 million fewer teenagers and young adults were employed in July than a year before, hitting a record low of 51.4 percent.

As AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said:  

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

Some of the report’s key findings include:

  • 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.
  • Strikingly, one in three young workers are currently living at home with their parents.
  • Only 31 percent say they make enough money to cover their bills and put some money aside-22 percentage points fewer than in 1999-while 24 percent cannot even pay their monthly bills.
  • A third cannot pay their bills and seven in 10 do not have enough saved to cover two months of living expenses.
  • 37 percent have put off education or professional development because they can’t afford it.
  • When asked who is most responsible for the country’s economic woes, close to 50 percent of young workers place the blame on Wall Street and banks or corporate CEOs. And young workers say greed by corporations and CEOs is the factor most to blame for in the current financial downturn.
  • By a 22-point margin, young workers favor expanding public investment over reducing the budget deficit. Young workers rank conservative economic approaches such as reducing taxes, government spending and regulation on business among the five lowest of 16 long-term priorities for Congress and the president.
  • Thirty-five percent say they voted for the first time in 2008, and nearly three-quarters now keep tabs on government and public affairs, even when there’s not an election going on.
  • The majority of young workers and nearly 70 percent of first-time voters are confident that Obama will take the country in the right direction.

Trumka, who is running for AFL-CIO president without announced opposition at our convention later this month, is making union outreach to young people a top priority. He said one of the report’s conclusions is especially striking:

Young people want to be involved but they’re rarely asked. Their priorities are even more progressive than the priorities of the older generation of working people, yet they aren’t engaged by co-workers or friends to get involved in the economic debate.

Currently, 18-to-35-year-olds make up a quarter of union membership. And at the AFL-CIO Convention, we will ask Convention delegates to approve plans for broad recruitment of young workers, as well as plans for training and leadership of young workers who are currently union members. And that’s just the beginning of a broad push towards talking and mobilizing young workers in the coming months and years.

According to the report, more than half of young workers say employees are more successful getting problems resolved as a group rather than as individuals, and employees who have a union are better off than employees in similar jobs who do not.

Read the full report here.

(Cross-posted from the AFL-CIO Now Blog.)

15 thoughts on “‘Young Workers: A Lost Decade’”

  1. ever increasing tax rates have nothing to do with a decline in the ability of people from getting out from under…

    and with Barry Hussein and the gang in congress (both sides) having Tax Freedom Day coming in at May 29th, dont expect it to change anytime soon.

    Or arent increasing taxes a part of the problem?

    just a thought.

  2. …tax rates getting higher is a direct result of the hollowing out of our economy that used to provide a better tax base across a wider range of private sector employment avenues, which is at the heart of most GOP and conservative thinking peoples’  agendas, or so I often hear anyway.  

    Increasing taxes may be part of the problem Tyler, but lets look at why we have to increase taxes and why even if the demands on services didn’t increase we’d still have to increase taxes. Let us be fully open and keep things in wider perspective to what is driving and has been driving this ever increasing need for more tax money from people who are making less, because the jobs that paid well and helped to keep taxes reasonable have been encouraged to be moved over seas as a means of helping the relative few avoid their fair share of taxes, and increase the imbalance of wealth and prosperity, aka the greed factor as I like to call it.  

    It also has to do with the rising costs of everything, which is not so much a tax problem, but an inflation and and overinflation of prices, where the actual product costs to make a unit of a good in many cases is laughably low, but the retail or wholesale prices for the goods are far and above what a company should be making for their product.  I would give Nike or other sport brand shoes as an example, for those made very cheaply and in mass quantities overseas again.  

    We’ve got good milk farmers here in PA who are going under because we’d rather import powdered milk from Africa and send our cows over there.  I know of someone who can’t get more than $10 for a calf at market right now, but you try to buy 100lbs. of veal for $10 at a grocery store.  It is highway robbery and I don’t hear that many people raising hell about it, but we all should.  We’re all being screwed and taxes are actually the least of our worries, but they are the easiest to point fingers at and bitch about.  

    Just my thoughts.

  3. Your quote…you own it:

    “This is America. Where a black woman who comes from nothing can become the most powerful person in TV. Where a half white, half black kid from Kenya (just kidding, John!) who was abandoned by his father can become president.”

    Just kidding? I don’t think so.

    Now apparently obsessed with pursuing this racial rant, You continue further on…

    “We are talking about legions of folks who think their lot in life is to wait by the mailbox for uncle sam’s bi monthly handout…hurricane katrina…i saw perfectly able bodied folks who were reduced to infantile behavior because they were no longer able to take care of themselves, all because they were preconditioned for years to think of themselves as victims…”

    Finally: “…my fantasty draft is coming up and I need to study…my mind is wandering…”Yes, your fantasty draft is well on its way to where ever the hell it is going and your mind is, indeed, wandering… perhaps on into a black hole, where it will, hopefully, be occasionally criss-crossed by yet another one of your wandering clich├ęs.

    Shame on you.

    Matt Thomas

  4. tylerderbun,

    Following your own suggestion, I read over once again and with the greatest care your original posting of Sep 04.

    I now have to admit that it is not clear that your words were necessarily subject to racial overtones and thus unfair for me to assume that they were.

    In line with this same finding, I owe you an apology.

    At the same time, for you to further suggest that the success of an Ophra Winfrey or President Obama is somehow achievable (even in the smallest fraction) for anything more than an infinitesimal percentage of poor young blacks is total baloney.

    Such a senario is a hundred times less plausible than the old nonsense about growing up to be a basketball superstar.

    Rather, these disadvantaged young people need the opportunity (along with sufficient encouragement) to learn foundation (basic) capabilities and skills that will enable them to join the nation’s workforce where they will have a real chance to move onto a career ladder with the potential to further broaden and enhance their skill and knowledge.

    There is still a future need for millions of skilled blue collar/tecnical workers where the compensation in many cases exceeds that of the college educated white collar employees. Those who look down on blue coller workers are not only elitists, they are also fools.

    Ironically, your own ideas are not too far from some short-sighted African-American leaders, who seem fixed on poor young black kids growing up to carry briefcases, but never lunch cans, as did myself along with my peers, both black and white. We pursued a work career that allows working men and women a full measure of dignity, pride of skill and a good living.

    Matt Thomas

  5. For skilled handwork, including that of your own grandfather whom you have every reason to be proud of.

    While still finding my present work on the so-called “professional” level interesting, in no way can it ever compare to the skilled craft work I once carried on in the metal-working trade.

    This is one reason why one can find former blue collar slilled workers (including myself) with a wood or metal-working shop in a back yard, a garage or in someone’s basement. These home workshops serve as a means to sustain that rewarding synergy of hand, eye and skill we once practiced in our former work lives.

    We can both agree on the value of work…at whatever level this might be. You further agree with me in that we all can’t be rockstars, or sport stars….and this is precisely my point:

    Holding up an Ophra, Obama, Thurgood Marshall or Clarence Thomas* as a role model to an at-risk youth is so far-fetched as to be preposterous…one might as well use a sports or rock star.

    One of the more serious problems teenagers already have too much of is in holding on to unreasonable…even irrational expectations.

    The Dave Thomas experience means absolutely nothing. Are you suggesting that among the more than 100,000 employees working in KFC’s 14,000 restaurants, there is any reasonable expectation that more than a infantisimal number will ever replicate Dave Thomas’ business career?

    As for Dave Thomas’ own job at KFC, he was never an employee at any level, but rather started out as the owner of a KFC franchise (check it out).

    This is not to suggest that role models are not important for these kids to have…of course they are…so long as that same adult holds down a job and enjoys a standard of living that an adolescent can reasonably aspire to.

    Most successful in turning these kids around are work-ready and foundation skills, as well as workplace mentoring by an adult in a program that matches secondary school curriculum to industry or business standards found out there in the real world.

    Most important of all, is that same adult person who serves as a mentor to the youth in his or her workplace every day, as well as for a few hours each week immediately after working hours.

    Outside, the youth will soon learn that some pretty cool things can be had through honest work and by developing one’s skill and knowledge; a laptop computer, Ipod, stereo, an automobile, a nice home and money in the bank. Programs like this cost money (including to suppliment a mentor’s wages) as well as the cooperation and participation of employers, unions and educators.

    I know these programs work because I organized one several years ago with assistance from a county career center.

    We began with 20 kids of 18-19 years of age, immediately losing several who were just too screwed up on drugs. It was a 4 month-long summer program; each week with two days in the classroom, three days at the workplace with again, curriculum matched to each youth’s needs as discovered at work.

    One-half of these seriously at-risk youths landed permanent full-time jobs at self-sustaining wages.

    Prior to this program, few were even qualified to work at a Wendy’s.

    *Clarence Thomas as a role model? That’s enough to make a cat bark.

    Matt Thomas  

  6. On Clarence Thomas, indeed, I have serious reservations in terms of his ideology and even further with the fact that the man is totally unqualified to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Even the conservative Chief Justice Rehnquist was generally reluctant to assign majority opinions to Thomas, because his rightwing views made it near impossible for a majority of justices (including conservatives) to go along with him.

    Arch conservative Anthony Scalia (no doubt one of your own heros) on the same Clarence Thomas:

    “I am an originalist, but I am not a nut.”

    Have you not ever noticed that while Thomas votes on every question, he almost always remains mute while other justices question and parry with the attorneys on both sides of an issue before the court?

    In Thomas’ case, I cannot help but be reminded of the old saying:

    “In maintaining one’s silence, others can only assume you are stupid, so why open your mouth and remove all doubt?”

    Having said all this, I am still forced to admit that Thomas was subjected to nothing less than a political lynching during his confirmation hearings…one of the most shameless collective acts of Democratic Senate leaders (driven by the left) in recent history.

    My wife watched these hearings and her finding was that both Thomas and Anita Hill lied thru their teeth.

    I’ll second that.

    However, no man deserved what they did to him.

    Like Thomas, I also have absolutely no use for the Brooklyn Democrat Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

    While I feel sorry for her apparently being ill, I will not be sorry te see her leave…and the sooner the better. You may take some comfort in the fact that she is an anti-union bitch.

    Matt Thomas

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