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'Union Scholars' Can Open New Doors for Themselves, Workers

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By AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders Your Benefits

There was a time when organizing meant knocking on doors, holding meetings at the local house of worship, passing out handbills and posting them on streetlights, and resorting to the old-fashioned telephone tree.

Social media has changed all that, especially for the millennials -- those born between 1982 and 2004. "Promoting, discussing and taking action around issues is part of Millennials' social personality and personal brand," according to a recent study on digital activism. "They seamlessly use social media to tell the world what they stand for."

Organizing -- the process of one-on-one engagement and relationship-building -- is the best strategy for building on that brand of activism. AFSCME sponsors a program that puts college students on the front lines of union-organizing campaigns across the nation.

The AFSCME Union Scholars Program, offered in partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, is a 10-week summer field placement for rising college juniors and seniors. Participants are placed on a union-organizing campaign, provided with on-site housing and paid a stipend. They also qualify for academic scholarships of up to $6,300 for the 2015-'16 academic year. The program targets students of color, because AFSCME believes it's crucial to cultivate more diversity in the ranks of organizers in the labor movement.

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