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July 5: an Important Anniversary for Youth and Student Organizing

Today, July 5, contains two auspicious anniversaries that speak to the power of people, especially youth, to effect change.

Voting in the Ballot Box - 40 Years Ago Today

18-year-old voting rightsThe second key anniversary today is President Nixon's 1971 signing of the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees voting rights to all citizens over the age of 18. Previously, for federal elections the age had been set at 21, with several states setting 18 as the cut-off age for state and local elections.

The ugly hypocrisy of sending 18-year-olds off to die in foreign lands but not allowing them to vote at home -- and the effective organizing and campaigning around it -- was a key factor in getting the Constitutional amendment passed. Electoral rights are not the pinnacle of political power for individuals and groups, but only the baseline. And today, even this bare minimum is under attackCampus Progress reminds us:

Bill to Protect TA Unionization Introduced in Congress

TA Rights Now!Yesterday, Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. George Miller introduced the "Teaching and Research Assistants Collective Bargaining Rights Act." This bill would amend the National Labor Relations Act to explicitly include Teaching and Research Assistants at private universities and colleges. From the press release:

In fact, the classroom is a workplace for these scholars. It’s where they earn the money they need to pay to put food on their tables and a roof over their heads. They deserve the right to stand together and make their voice heard in their workplace. Like other employees, they should have the right to join a union and improve their working conditions. Obviously, better wages and working conditions for them also means better education for their students.

An NLRB That Needs Fixin'

The National Labor Relations Board was set up in 1935 to handle disputes between employees, unions, and management. After the 1947 passage of the Taft-Hartley Act (one of the most odious pieces of anti-labor legislation in this country's history) the NLRB has trended consistently more pro-management (to greater or lesser degrees) ever since.

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