Day of Action Energizes Third District Youth
September 26, 2014
It’s a new tradition in the making. For the second year, 60 members of the Third District Youth Caucus came together to volunteer their skills and time to help local residents in need.
With the help of Pittsburgh Local 5 and Rebuilding Together, 25 caucus members provided electrical assistance to homes of two disabled military vets, one Army and one Marine Corps. The work included installing a sub panel, new light fixtures, receptacles, and switches, replacing a fuse box with a new circuit breaker panel and running a new circuit.
Over half the 2014 caucus participants, who all attended a workshop on challenges facing young workers, were first time attendees to the annual Third District Progress meeting. They discussed facts and myths surrounding young workers, the need to change the perception of the labor movement and issues from crushing student loan debt to rising costs of housing and health care to the lack of future opportunities.
“We went out decked on our T-shirts, into the Pittsburgh community to help those less fortunate, reinforcing everything we talked about the day before and proving that we will back up every word spoken by International President Hill and International Vice President Siegel about IBEW members getting involved in and helping the community,” says Philadelphia Local 98’s Tara Chupka, the group’s co-chair.
Since the 2013 progress meeting, caucus members have participated in other charity projects and communicated via monthly conference calls and Skype. Some attended IBEW’s RENEW (Reach Out and Engage Next-Gen Electrical Workers) Conference in D.C.
In a second community service project, caucus members helped pack food donations at a food bank distribution center.
“This wasn’t just sorting canned goods, but a full-on 30-person assembly line, like a well-oiled machine,” says New York Local 3’s Chris Erikson Jr, who shares leadership of the caucus with Chupka.
“It was cool to see members of different locals and different branches intermingle and work together,” says Ryan Youngman, who assisted the food bank effort. An assistant business representative in Syracuse, N.Y., Local 1249, Youngman spent 10 years in the field as a lineman.
Since his appointment, he has initiated a community outreach effort in Local 1249. “I think the youth caucus will evolve into something much bigger,” he says. Younger workers have seen mostly attacks on labor over the last 10 or 15 years. We want to know our history and learn from the more veteran workers what it was like to have stronger unions so we can help to drive the movement.”
Erikson addressed the delegate body on the last morning of the progress meeting. He described the world his peers, all born after 1980, have inherited.
“We only know a world of Ronald Reagan, deregulation, globalization, 9/11, the Great Recession, Fox News, and right-wing conservative politicians,” he said. The work of the caucus is so important, he said, because “People are trying to destroy our way of life and eradicate the labor movement.”
Since its founding in Philadelphia, the Third District group has developed a newsletter, a Facebook page and Twitter account.