Almeida: Embrace and encourage ideas of younger workers
By Bill Dugovich
SPEA Communications Director
Older workers listen up. Your younger, millennial co-workers are more supportive of labor unions than you
are and would rather communicate
face-to-face than read an email or
text message. They want to learn
from you and there are things you
can learn from them.
Strong words. But, the labor movement will not survive unless the
experienced, over 50-year-olds
start paying attention to the under
35-year-olds in the workplace,
said Paul Almeida, president of
the Department for Professional
Employees (DPE), AFL-CIO, during his keynote address at the SPEEA Leadership Conference.
“There are 19 million professional millennial workers in the workforce
today. We need to embrace these workers. They are the future of the labor
movement and the country,” Almeida said. “If we ignore them, we risk they
will become anti-union workers.”
Almeida’s advice is based on more
than 45 years’ experience as a labor
leader and from a recent survey and
report conducted by Hart Research
Associates for DPE. The survey
asked more than 1,000 non-union
professional workers across the
country about their views regarding labor unions. What it found is
that as a group, 64% of millennials
would strongly support a proposal
to have a union in their workplace.
This compares to 54% of 35 to
49-year-olds (generation X) and
just 50% of the 50-years and older
group (baby boomers).
An electrical and electronics engineer by trade, Almeida rose through the union ranks to become president
of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers
(IFPTE). He was president when SPEEA affiliated in 1999 and, months
later, was instrumental in helping SPEEA gain broad-based support from
the AFL-CIO during the 40-day strike. After the strike, he helped launch
partnership efforts between SPEEA and The Boeing Company.
“I didn’t set out to be a labor leader,” Almeida told conference attendees.
“I didn’t grow up in a labor household. I didn’t have strong feelings about
unions. Becoming a labor leader
was not an obvious path.”
Relating his experience as a young
engineer not entirely satisfied with
the company he worked for or
the union he was a member of,
Almeida told of getting involved
as a young union member to gain
a voice for the younger workers
– who were the majority of work-
force. They wanted a meaningful
say in the operation of the com-
pany and their union.
“Younger and older members had
different ideas of how to do things
and had different priorities. But,
on many issues we were all uni-
fied,” Almeida said. “As a young
labor leader, there was never a
shortage of older workers eager to share their union and professional knowl-
edge with me. But, some of them told me to try and figure it out myself.
That was not helpful.”
A retiring IFP TE regional vice president encouraged Almeida to run for the
upcoming vacancy. He did, and
won. If not for the push from
that older labor leader, Almeida
said he would not have thought
about seeking higher office.
over the years is why he rose to
become IFPTE president and
then to head the DPE.
Research shows younger workers want a union and they want
to have a meaningful role in its
operation. They want the union
to listen to their needs, give
them a say in its operation and
respect the fact that they may
want to do things differently.
With unions under attack and
losing members, Almeida said it’s up to current leaders and seasoned
members to mentor and encourage young workers to get involved.
“We elderly labor leaders won’t win young workers over by telling them
to just wait your turn,” Almeida said. “Talk to them. One-on-one communication is the preferred way millennials want communication. It’s not
texting or sending an email or tweeting. It’s talking to them face-to-face.
As today’s labor leaders, it’s up to us to help foster the next generation
Speakers at the SPEEA Leadership Conference included, from left: SPEEA Executive Director
Ray Goforth, IFPTE President Greg Junemann, SPEEA President Ryan Rule, keynote speaker
Paul Almeida, president of the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO, and Leadership
Development and Training Committee Chair Dan Nowlin.
About 160 SPEEA Council Reps, activists, guests and staff participated in the annual leadership training June 10. Workshops focused on engaging younger members as well as training
geared toward the Council Rep role as workplace liaison and workshops related to legislative and legal issues in the labor movement.
Everett Council Rep Han Mai, left, gets to know Wichita Council Reps Daniel Ryan and Daryl
Doshier on a break at the two days of training and SPEEA Council business at a hotel near the
Sea Tac airport.