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Labor targets young workers living at home, strapped for funds

By Dave Cook / September 1, 2009



Young workers -- those under age 35 -- have seen their economic condition deteriorate significantly in the last decade, according to a new national survey released Tuesday by the AFL-CIO.

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Leaders of the labor organization see opportunity in the plight of young workers and said they will focus extensive recruitment efforts on them. “I think we’ve lost touch with a whole generation,” AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Richard Trumka said at a conference on Monday. “So the first step is to bring them in and start talking about their needs.”

Perhaps the most striking finding of the new research about young workers’ pocketbook issues is that one in three young workers are living at home with their parents. The July survey, conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, has a margin of error or plus or minus 3.5 percent.

Only 31 percent of the young people surveyed said they made enough money to cover their bills and put some money aside. That is 22 percentage points lower than a when the same age group was surveyed in 1999.

Half do not make $30,000

The inability to cover living expenses and save is not surprising, since the Hart survey found that more than half of young workers make less than $30,000.

The portion of the under-35 working population that lacks health insurance also has climbed with 31 percent of young workers reporting they are uninsured. That is up from 24 percent in a survey 10 years ago.

Less optimism in grim times

Slumping optimism by young workers was one sign of the tough economic circumstances the survey found. Today just over half of young workers say they are more hopeful than worried about their economic future, a drop of 22 points from 1999.

“It is almost a lost decade for young people,” Trumka said Monday at a conference on the future of the labor movement sponsored by the Center for American Progress in Washington.

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