Being a young adult and trying to make it these days isn’t easy. And I know, because I’m one of them.
We’ve got so much to offer. We’re energized, intelligent, and full of new ideas and technological prowess — but we’re unemployed. Or we’re underemployed. And even for those of us who are lucky enough to have a full-time job, we all have peers who are struggling to find a place in the workforce, regardless as to whether they have a Bachelors degree, a Masters, or even a law degree. But last week, when I watched the President’s speech at the DNC convention, I was renewed with a sense of urgency to get out there and fight to rebuild the middle class. Better times are coming, if we take charge of our future.
I know many of us are discouraged, but we can’t lose faith, and we can’t doubt that we can speak out and make a difference. As Obama said last week:
If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other voices will fill the void, the lobbyists and special interests, the people with the $10 million checks who are trying to buy this election and those who are trying to make it harder for you to vote.
This is exactly what will happen if Prop 32 passes here in California. Prop 32 is a deceptive measure that claims to be about campaign finance reform, but is actually riddled with special exemptions for corporate CEOs and their secretive Super PACs. The backers of Prop 32 are the special interests and people Obama spoke about, who can write multi-million-dollar checks to buy our elections. They backed Citizens’ United, and now they think we’re stupid enough to fall for their tricks. If passed, Prop 32 will make it even easier for Super PACs to rule politics through limiting the voice of the middle class. Do we want these corporate billionaires running the show?
NO, we don’t, because the Labor Movement is exactly what us young adults need right now. We need strong union jobs to help us secure our place in the middle class, providing us with a fair living wage, health care, retirement security and a voice at work. And we need a voice that is fighting for the middle class as a whole. Just this year, the labor movement here in California passed two landmark pieces of legislation: the Homeowners’ Bill of Rights and Workers’ Compensation Reform. Thanks to these labor-backed bills, banks cannot foreclose upon homeowners who are seeking a loan modification, and homeowners won’t “get the run-around” when they seek a modification. And the long-overdue workers’ comp reform will make put $860 million into the pockets of injured workers.
As Obama noted, If we want to restore
the values that built the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world has ever known
then we need to mobilize together and vote NO on Prop 32. We can’t restore the middle class if we limit Labor’s voice. If this passes, first, the Super PACs will clear unions from the equation, making it illegal (or at least really difficult) for them to participate in politics. Once the Super PACs rule elections, they will come after the middle class; cutting the minimum wage, giving themselves tax breaks, going after health care and education. In other words, it will be even harder for us to work our way into the middle class because the backers of Prop 32 aren’t in it for us… they’re in it for themselves.
Not only do we need to get out the word on Prop 32, we also need to tell others to vote YES on Prop 30. Many of us are recent grads, or still in college, or we’re trying to get to college or further our education in some way — and we know first-hand that investing in education is the only way to pull our economy up and reclaim the California Dream. Obama focused a great of his speech on education and the Republicans’ plan:
I don’t believe that firing teachers or kicking students off financial aid will grow the economy— or help us compete with the scientists and engineers coming out or China.
Prop 30 is a way to save our education from more cuts. In the last four years, schools in California have already been hit with $20 billion in cuts, more than 30,000 educators have been laid off and our class sizes are now among the largest in the country. If Prop 30 doesn’t pass, the school year will be shortened, more teachers will be laid off and class sizes will continue to grow. Prop 30 has wide support among college students, who have seen their tuition increase semester after semester. If passed, Prop 30 would freeze tuition increases for the upcoming school year. If not, tuition will increase 20%.
This proposition calls for the rich – who have seen their incomes skyrocket while most of us struggle – to pay their fair share of taxes, also part of Obama’s vision:
You can choose a future where we reduce our deficit without sticking it to the middle class.
I personally see light at the end of the tunnel for us young adults. But we have to stay active in politics: not only do we need to vote on these propositions, we need to motivate others to do so. We need to build the movement, join forces, and take to the streets! Our opponents will beat us financially, as corporations already outspend unions 15 to 1, but they won’t beat us on the ground. Because that’s where we shine.
Ever since the dawn of the American Labor Movement, young people haven’t just been active – they’ve been real activist leaders. From the Lowell Mill Girls Strike in the mid-1800’s to the 21st century social movements like the Arab Spring and Occupy, history shows that progress and stability for the middle class starts with the voices and footsteps of young people like us, and this election is no different. We’re got the energy and the enthusiasm to not just participate in but actually lead one of the largest grassroots campaigns in California history. We’ve got new media and new technologies to help us reach younger voters in unique ways. And most importantly, we’ve got access to younger Californians who may not truly understand Prop 32 — or maybe they’ve never voted at all, or would likely stay home this November if we don’t reach out to them directly and make sure they know what’s at stake.
Instead of feeling discouraged, I’m feeling more hopeful than ever before, because I’m part of a growing young worker movement in California and across the country that has the power to re-invigorate the Labor Movement and keep it strong and growing for generations to come. From phone banks and rallies to ‘trick or vote’ activities, we’re getting active and we’re bringing other young folks along with us!
So come on youngins, let’s get “fired up and ready to go!”