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In Her Own Words
My name is Kehau Makaila. I’m a 36 year old member of the Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA)/AFSCME Local 152.
For the past 15 years, I’ve been an educational assistant in Waimanalo and Palolo Valley, Hawaii. I work with special education students in middle school. I love my job because of the children. I see so much potential in a lot of them.
I’ve been an AFSCME member since 2002. But it wasn’t until 2014, that I really got involved in my union. I became a steward. I did it because someone approached me and suggested it.
Ever since then, I’ve become more and more active in my union. Now I’m the state chair for Next Wave and I recently got elected to the State Board of Directors for Unit 3 as well as vice president for the Unit 3 Board of Directors. I’m also the state chair for the Community Action Committee.
It wasn’t until I became involved with my union that the pieces of the puzzle came together for me. That’s when I saw the value and the importance of the union.
Today, we need more young activists to get involved because as the older, experienced generation begins to retire, it will be up to the next generation to continue leading our union forward and preserving our member rights and benefits. We need to communicate with our young members and energize them about the role they can play in leading our union.
In His Own Words
"My name is Mike McDonald. I’m 35 years old. I’m a member
of AFSCME Local 528 (Council 94) at the University of Rhode Island.
My first job at the university was when I was 22, and I’ve been here ever since. I’m a groundskeeper by trade. We are the largest local on campus. We represent dining, custodial, outdoor main-tenance, security officers, lab scientists, storekeepers, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, maintenance personnel and more.
There’s been AFSCME members in my family for the better part of the last five decades. My parents both worked at the university, my father was president of Council 94. My grandfather was captain of police at the university back in the mid-60s.
Most young people who walk in the door these days don’t have parents who were in unions. The challenge is that a lot of young people don’t have any idea how the union works and our job is to communicate that to them. It takes some time to explain it, to convince them that these jobs are good jobs because of our union. But that’s our goal.
And one thing I’ve learned is that despite all the communications technology these days, the best way to reach young people is still through one-on-one conversations. It’s about getting to know them, knowing their names and their families and relating all that back to how the union plays a role in making their lives better. ”
NEXT WAVE: From then to Now
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This year Next Wave is celebrating 10 years of young worker engagement! The Next Wave program aims to give young members a sense of community inside of AFSCME, with the goal of continuing to strengthen our union.
Want to join our ranks? To be part of Next Wave, young AFSCME members have three assignments:
1) To get involved in their local union
2) Bring others with them
3) Build a relationship with their local union leaders
Lee on Next Wave
“So much of AFSCME’s energy and passion comes from members who have more tomorrows than yesterdays. For 10 years, the Next Wave program has been about grooming new leaders, empowering them with the tools they need to make a difference in their locals. This new generation is helping transform our union, building a culture of activism that has us ready to meet any challenge. We need to continue nurturing their growth through Next Wave — not just so we can succeed in the future, but so we can be stronger right now.”
- AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders
Local 152, Hawaii
Council 94, Rhode Island
Click their photos and see their stories
Mike and Kehau:
In Their Own Words
Rising Through the Ranks
See How NEXT WAVE Grew
See How NEXT WAVE Grew
As young people, it can be challenging to find a home in our unions but Next Wave gives everyone an opportunity to participate and take leadership roles. Kehau Makaila knows this first hand. Makaila, 36, is a steward at the Hawaii Government Employees Association/AFSCME Local 152 and chair of the AFSCME Hawaii Next Wave chapter.
“I’ve been an AFSCME member since 2002 but it wasn’t until 2014 that I really got involved in my union. I became a steward and now I’m the state chair for Next Wave and I recently got elected to the State Board of Directors for Unit 3 as well as vice president for the Unit 3 Board of Directors. I’m also the state chair for the Community Action Committee."
Mike McDonald, 35, is president of AFSCME Local 528 (Council 94). The local represents workers at the University of Rhode Island: maintenance personnel, lab scientists, storekeepers, security officers, custodians, dining hall employees and more.
McDonald says that even with today’s sophisticated communications technology, the best way to reach young people is still through one-on-one conversations.
“It’s all about getting to know them personally, their names and their families,” he says. “And then to relate their personal lives back to the role that the union plays, how it helps us maintain the good jobs that we’re so proud of.”
Next Wave: Stronger Together
Labor unions are increasingly popular, especially among young people. Three-quarters of those between the ages of 18 and 29 view unions favorably, much higher than the general population. And the popularity of unions continues to increase – today 61 percent of adults say they approve of labor unions.
Yet, union membership is declining. In 2016, it fell another 0.4 percentage points to 10.7 percent. AFSCME bucked this trend, welcoming 12,000 new sisters and brothers last year.
The big challenge today is not just how to make union membership easier, not harder, but also how to attract young people to the labor movement.
And the good news is that young AFSCME activists across the country are rising to meet this challenge, to welcome labor’s future to AFSCME’s ranks. Through our union’s Next Wave program, they are taking leadership roles in their unions and encouraging other young people to join.
by Pablo Ros
M E M B E R S | A C T I V I S T S | L E A D E R S
N E X T W A V E