Young workers can play an important role in the political process, and Assistant Business Manager Nate Gutierrez of Denver Local 111 wants to make sure they know that. With the election coming up, he is using his local’s RENEW chapter as a gateway to get them involved.
“It is very important for young members to be active in politics,” Gutierrez said. RENEW, or Reach out and Engage Next-gen Electrical Workers, is one way he hopes to get more young members at his local to do just that.
Established at the 38th International Convention in 2011, the initiative seeks to engage young members and get them more involved with their union and in their communities, and statistics show there is plenty of room for improvement
According to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau, less than half of the voting population between the ages of 18 and 29 participated in the 2012 election. All other age groups exceeded 50 percent participation.
This low level of participation is nothing new among young voters. The same report shows that young people have always lagged behind, but Gutierrez does not want this to be the case when it comes to his peers at Local 111.
Their RENEW chapter has teamed up with the Colorado Young Workers, a politically active group of young union workers across the state, to assist members with voter registration. At regular meetings, a member of the Colorado Young Workers comes to the union hall and registers members directly on an electronic tablet, making the process quick and easy.
Gutierrez is a member of Local 111’s RENEW chapter and sits on the Eighth District’s RENEW Advisory Committee, which covers Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.
“In a region this diverse, young members have a lot of different issues that they care about,” Gutierrez said. “Getting them to understand the issues that impact them is the struggle.”
RENEW gives young members a forum for discussion. In Denver, things such as living wage as well as the high cost of living within the city are important to young workers.
So far, Gutierrez believes the effort to engage Local 111’s young members seems to be taking hold. He hopes this will spread beyond the Mile High City as other locals within the Eighth District have expressed their interest in starting their own RENEW chapters.
“I don’t know why every local isn’t getting involved with RENEW,” Gutierrez said, “With the help of the International Office, it’s spreading.”
With RENEW on the rise, he hopes, so is the next generation of informed and politically active union members.
Photo Credit: Photo used under a Creative Commons License courtesy of Flickr user Stephen Velasco