Op-Ed: Leaders must train future leaders – engaging millennials in the labor movement


Throughout my 25 year career I have always been politically active and engaged in my union.  

However it wasn’t until AFSCME initiated Next Wave, a program that mentored union members under 40 years of age for leadership roles. I truly saw how important it was for leaders to engage and train our young future leaders.   I realized early on that the future of the labor movement is linked to labor activism, organizing and mentoring. 

I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to chair my unions first Next Wave Committee. Subsequently I am the first Next Waver to be elected an executive officer at District Council 37.

We as leaders have a unique opportunity to grow and become stronger with the support of millennial workers.  

According to the Economic Policy Institute, workers age 35 and under are the main reason for the surge in union membership over the past two years. Nationwide in 2017, nearly 860,000 workers under age 35 got hired and nearly a quarter of those were union jobs. Let’s not forget young workers were instrumental in the Fight for $15, #MeToo and living wage to just name a few.  

It is up to us to break from tradition and connect with the younger generation and encourage them not only to join, but also lead.

My goal as President is to teach others to lead the fight. 

The Trump Administration seeks to destroy unions by attacking worker’s rights and by introducing laws and policies.   We can’t just sit back and wait for new leaders to arrive. 

Working with our parent unions, we must identify those with leadership potential and then find ways to nurture and develop that potential. That is why I encourage my members to vote, become union organizers, join union committees, attend union meetings, rallies, protest and join Next Wave Committee.  

We need to remind the public that the five day work week, health benefits and safe working conditions are some of the things our predecessor union workers fought for and won on our behalves. 

We must stay vigilant so those gains we have made are not taken away. Stay Ready!

Shaun D. Francois I, President of Local 372 and DC37

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