Today, we are witnessing the growth of a number of visionary movements in the streets against income inequality, racial profiling, student debt, and a broken immigration system among other important battles. Much of the heat in the streets has been led by the first generation of Americans to come of age during the new millennium, also known as the Millennials. These movements were instrumental in turning the tables of the national debate in the United States from the politics of division to a new politics of solidarity and justice for all---not just for the wealthiest 1%.
None of these inspiring new movements happened by accident. They were the product of conscious organizing and movement-building by a diverse group of Millennial organizers and others (many organizing for the first time) employing a variety of innovative new strategies, tactics and organizing models for social change. A few of these organizers will be joining SEIU members and others participating at the SEIU Convention this year in Denver, Colorado to learn from one another and to celebrate the strength of our generation's will to change the world. (Check out the SEIU Millennials Facebook page)
Who Are the Millennial Generation?
The Millennial generation refers to people born roughly between the years of 1980 and the year 2000. According to a recent study, Millennials are by far the most ethnically diverse generation in American history as well as the most politically progressive.
More than 70% of college-age Millennials agree that the current economic system unfairly favors the wealthy, and 61% of us believe in the basic tenets of the Dream Act for undocumented youth. A majority of Millennials also believe in marriage equality.
While there are aspects of the generational shift in America which can generally be viewed as positive for our collective future, there are others which call into question fundamental assumptions about fairness and equality in U.S. democracy.
Members of the Millennial generation are the first generation in modern U.S. history to be economically worse off than their parents. Young adults are more than two times as likely to be underemployed and 50% more likely to be jobless than older Americans.
And the trend is not just limited to young people without a college diploma. A whopping 50% of new college graduates are either jobless or underemployed. This despite amassing a record $1 trillion dollars in student loan debt.
Instead of working toward the creation of good jobs and affordable education for all, politicians are targeting youth for simply walking or driving through their own neighborhood with policies like the notorious Stop and Frisk of New York City or the draconian Federal anti-immigration policy known as Secure Communities. Last year, a record 400,000 people were apprehended, separated from their families and deported by law enforcement.
Millennials were born and raised in an era characterized by the rolling back of vital social services like transportation, public education and healthcare, as well as the deregulation of Wall Street and tax giveaways for big businesses to which, there was supposedly, "no alternative". This agenda was a major theme of successive administrations across the political spectrum, who promised eventual prosperity for the public in return for sacrifices to the biggest corporations and Wall Street. We can never forget that the tragic reality faced by today's young workers and students is an example that this agenda has failed the vast majority of people and that in 2012 we need to begin dramatically changing course.
Changing the World: the Millennial Way
SEIU recognizes that there are many fresh and exciting lessons for the broader social and economic justice movement to learn from the experiences of organizers in the Millennial generation. SEIU members and allies from the progressive community are preparing to participate in a two day event at our Convention later this month called, "Changing the World: the Millennial Way."
Rapper Jasiri X and other performers will be attending the Millennial event at the SEIU Convention
The event will feature organizers from the immigrant rights movement, Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, members of 1199 Purple Gold, Google and other organizations as we explore innovative and effective new solutions to the mounting problems facing America and the global community. The success or failure of the continuing 99% movement in the United States will in large part depend on the level of participation, leadership and ultimately the organizing of the Millennial generation in our workplaces and communities. This year's event will be a continuation of the national conversation to support that work.
Follow the Millennial action
For more information about the Millennial event at the SEIU Convention or how you can get involved with our organizing work post-convention follow @BrotherAustin on twitter and hashtag #SEIUMillennials. You can also 'like' our SEIU Millennials page on Facebook.