Hello, I’m Doug Johnson. I serve as Chief Steward for the N.I.C. (National Internet Contract) at Local 6215 in Dallas, Texas and am employed by AT&T.
It’s April and that means it is springtime. I love Spring because it’s a time of renewal, a rebirth. It signals to all that winter is gone and a new year is upon us. The new year brings with it new challenges and new opportunities. One of the biggest opportunities we will face this year is the midterm elections. In order to take advantage of this opportunity, we must exercise our right to vote because the outcomes are important for you, me and the entire country!
For the sake of expediency, I’m going to assume that all my union brothers & sisters are registered to vote and know how important the 2018 election cycle is. I want to focus on how we take political action one step further, by encouraging others to vote and participate in the democratic process - specifically young people. I want us to talk with young people about voting, how to register to vote and why their voice matters.
I have three boys, my youngest are 19 and 18 years old. I believe it is my job, duty and honor to make sure they are registered to vote and informed on the issues. Further, any of their friends who darken my doorstep must know I’m going to inquire about their voter registration status and check to see if they are aware of key issues. I’m always checking in with my kids and their friends about registering to vote and getting their opinion on recent events. I’m prepared if someone is not registered; I have voter registration cards handy and can register them to vote. I also inquire about their opinion on recent events. There are times when I ask about a young person’s opinion on issues such as school shootings, teacher walkouts or anything happening politically in Washington and they aren’t informed enough to give an answer. Usually I’ll ask that they watch the news or read a specific article to learn more. Then I follow up with them when they come back to visit because I want to hear their thoughts on the topic.
We must all do the same with our family, friends, neighbors, church members and co-workers. Take a second to think about how many young people of voting age you know, or who your kids know that live within a 5 block radius of your home. There’s probably at least a few. From there, all you need to do is start a dialogue with them. It’s as simple as asking a question and listening to their response. Just like we do when we ask co-workers if they’re a union member and if they will join the union.
After the recent shooting in Parkland, Florida I was pleasantly surprised to see the young high school kids take charge and rise to the challenge of speaking to the media and taking on politicians at all levels. Their efforts have sparked a wave of young people getting involved in the political process, including marching and protesting across the country. The 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was earlier this month and these students remind me of the young people of the Civil Rights Era who took action and helped bring about change in our country.
It’s important that we take the time to engage with our own kids, the young people we work with, see at church or other community events. It’s important that they feel heard and are empowered to take action. Because we all have this ability to make a difference within us. The difference between extraordinary and ordinary is the EXTRA. So if we go the extra mile to engage and support our young folks, we can be the difference. Our union is doing more and more everyday by engaging young people, 18-35 years old, in our Next Generation program including my local that has a Next Gen chapter.
Remember spring is about renewal. Let’s renew our commitment to creating change in our union, our community and inside our homes. It starts with the seeds of conversation and blooms into the fruits of our revolution.