On the picket line

Global youth jobless crisis

A report released May 8 by the International Labor Organization stated that 73.4 million young workers worldwide are estimated to be jobless this year. Millions of others are underemployed in mostly temporary or part-time jobs. The numbers, likely to increase through 2018, will have a long-term impact for decades to come. In 2012, the highest youth unemployment was 28.3 percent in the Middle East and 23.7 percent in North Africa. The report, “Global Employment Trends for Youth 2013: A Generation at Risk,” urged countries to adopt “aggressive policies for improving job growth” and investment in education and training, while ensuring international labor standards and rights. (blog.aflcio.org, May 9) Similar recommendations were made in the April 4 report, “Stuck: Young America’s Persistent Jobs Crisis,” issued by Démos, a U.S. public policy organization. The report stated: “Without policy targeted to the needs of young adults” – especially youth of color and those without a college education – “we risk a generation marked by the insecurities of the Great Recession for the rest of their working lives.” It recommended a youth jobs corps similar to that in the 1930s, raising the federal minimum wage, strengthening the voice of youth in the workplace, and access to low-cost community college education and vocational training. (demos.com, April 4) These ideas sound good on paper, but how will they be implemented with capitalism stuck at a dead end? The only solution is revolution.

UMWA ratifies deal with Patriot Coal

Members of 13 locals of the Mine Workers union in West Virginia and Kentucky voted overwhelmingly to ratify a settlement with Patriot Coal on Aug. 16. The settlement provides significant improvements in terms and conditions for union jobs and retiree health care over what a bankruptcy judge ordered last May. While UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts praised the settlement, he noted that Patriot still does not have enough resources to provide lifetime health care benefits to 23,000 retirees, dependents and surviving spouses, which Peabody Energy and Arch Coal agreed to when they set up Patriot five years ago. The UMWA has maintained since then that Patriot was set up to fail, so it could claim bankruptcy, which it did in 2012, in order to shed the cost of these benefits. “We fully intend to hold Peabody and Arch accountable,” stated Roberts. “This settlement has not solved the problem. It has only bought us time to seek a more permanent solution.” (umwa.org, Aug. 16) UMWA’s determination to continue the fight for justice was affirmed three days earlier when more than 2,000 UMWA members and retirees, supporters from other unions, and community and faith-based activists rallied outside Peabody’s headquarters in St. Louis. Among those arrested in a civil disobedience action was Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers: “We’re here because we understand that this fight is about the oldest fight in America: that if you work hard, then America’s corporations can’t turn their backs on workers.” (blog, aflcio.org, Aug. 13) Stay tuned.

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