First Published: The Call, Vol. 3, No. 12, September 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The October League has initiated a nation-wide campaign around Jobs For Youth. The campaign has been launched, in the face of the worst job conditions young people in this country have faced in 40 years.
In cities throughout the country, millions of youth have been thrown out onto the streets with no means of support–often joining the rest of the family. However, unlike the rest of the millions of unemployed, these young people are not eligible for unemployment or welfare benefits.
Demonstrations and rebellions have occurred this summer in a number of urban centers as young workers and unemployed join the fight-back against the effects of the present crisis which is rocking the whole capitalist system. Thousands of others, seeing no way out and feeling the frustration that can come from having the full weight of the system resting on their backs, have taken to crime, gang violence and drugs. Others have enlisted in the army as a way out.
Hardest hit by the spiraling joblessness have been the minority youth in the urban centers. The New York State Employment Service estimates that there are about 150,000 people out of work in that city between the ages of 16 and 21. However, Service officials say there are about 400,000 more who are out of work, out of school and not even looking any more, with about 50 per cent of that number Black or Latino.
“I’m up at 5, going places, getting rejected,” said one Bronx teen-ager in an interview with a New York Times reporter. The teen-ager who has a small daughter of her own to support said, “I’m not a moron, but it feels degrading.”
“Once they know I never worked and have no skills–no work skills–no job” said Migdalia Colon, 20 years old, also of the South Bronx. ”That’s not right. We need a chance.”
“Best that you can do is hang out, get high,” said a young Black woman. “All that’s out there is reefer. Either smoke it or sell it, or both.”
This is the picture one gets from many young working class and minority young people in the cities of this country where unemployment in the poorer neighborhoods is estimated at 60 per cent. This is what the capitalist system offers its youth during their most productive years. A Wall Street Journal article (3/18/75) estimated that, “If the economy doesn’t improve quickly, an entire generation of young Blacks will enter adulthood in the 1980’s without ever having held a job.”
“The implications,” says the Journal, “of such a scenario are not very pleasant to contemplate.”
Of course the Wall Street millionaires have never given a damn about the plight of the unemployed youth. For them the youth have always been used as a reserve army of workers to work at the lowest wages in the worst jobs on the basis of last hired, first fired. The “scenario” they are worrying about is one of thousands of jobless youth rebelling as they did 10 years ago from Watts to Harlem.
In the very same Journal article, the editors of the paper, which speaks for the biggest monopoly capitalists in the world, pose their solution to the youth unemployment problem. To them the problem is “the minimum wage laws” which require that full-time employees be paid $2 an hour. They blame the unions for demanding this kind of, protection, saying that young workers “aren’t worth $2 an hour.”
“Worth,” says the Wall Street Journal, “is a value judgement that can’t really be determined by legislation, and the fact is that many inexperienced and unskilled workers–which teenagers tend to be–are simply not worth the federal minimum to prospective employers. Thus those who might be willing to hire helpers at $1.50 or $I an hour don’t hire them at all when the minimum is $2.”
If the whole working class had to rely on the “worth” that the Wall Street bankers place on their labor, we would all be working as slaves. This is the reason why so many young people are without jobs–so that they can be forced to compete with each other and older workers in driving down the wage scale. Furthermore, this is how the ruling class gets them as cannon fodder to fight their wars in Indochina, the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere.
The only way to meet this attack is through a militant fight-back. Young people must get organized to meet the attacks on them and their fellow workers head on. The Jobs-For-Youth campaign can mobilize thousands of people demanding that every young person be given a job at union scale wages and that the minimum wage be raised to $3 per hour. The demand for a higher minimum wage is necessary to keep young workers from being brought in at lower wages as older workers are being pushed out.
The campaign must also be linked to the massive cutbacks that are presently being made in grants and aids to help working class and minority youth get an education.
Furthermore we are demanding an end to police brutality against the youth who are the daily victims, especially in the minority communities, of police violence and harassment because they have nowhere to go and no recreational facilities or programs to occupy them.
Finally we want the drug pushers out of the community and the millionaires who are getting rich by keeping the youth addicted to drugs, jailed. These gangsters and profiteers are allowed to run wild, especially in the ghettoes and barrios, while thousands of young people are jailed for possessing marijuana.
This campaign can be taken up through the building of mass fight-back organizations for youth, organizations which can unite young people of every color and nationality, young men and women fighting side by side. It must combine education and militant actions. Already thousands of young people have demonstrated for jobs at unemployment offices and government buildings in California, New York, Cleveland, New Jersey and other areas. In August, 2,000 youth employed in summer programs in New York tied up traffic on West 125th St. for four hours as they tried to get into a Youth Services Agency pay office to get their checks. Many of them had not been paid in more than a month as the state tried to run another slave-labor game on them. Dozens of police were called in to beat and jail the young people who were only demanding their rights.
Key in this campaign are the revolutionary youth in groups like the Communist Youth Organization (CYO) which has recently grown in several cities from coast to coast. The CYO’s purpose is to develop special work among the working class youth to bring them into the struggle against capitalism. As long as capitalism exists, there can be no full employment and the young will feel the burden especially when capitalist crises like this one deepen.
There is an alternative to young people being victims of exploitation and a system which wastes their lives and gives them no direction. We call on young people everywhere to unite and fight together with all working people in the fight against those who control this system.