Black History Month is meant to celebrate the achievements of African Americans in the United States. While we have made huge strides toward overcoming the barriers that have set us back—we have not fully overcome the damages that centuries of exploitation, oppression and free labor have had on our communities due to enslavement and Jim Crow laws. Many people tell our community that we should “get over it” and “slavery is over, the playing field is equal”—but it’s no secret that structural racism has continued to plague our community with higher unemployment rates, over incarceration and a wider education gap than whites and other communities of color.
Carmen Berkley is the executive director of the Generational Alliance, a collaboration of 22 national youth organizations building community and collective power for the emerging majority of young people of color, women, LGBTQ folks and low-income communities–who usually don't have a seat at the table.
As we approach International Workers' Day, also known as May Day, it's hard not to wonder about the future of the labor movement, and whether or not young people in the United States will wake up and see that joining labor unions could be a part of the solution to the nation's 22.9% youth unemployment rate.
Somewhere between the hate propaganda promoting the “dangers” of joining labor unions (including bringing us a weekend and the 40-hour work week), and outsourcing millions of jobs overseas, the millennial generation has been raised to turn our backs on labor, and pray for a job at Google where we might be able to get fair working standards like a free bowl of Cap'n Crunch or a bike share program.