Let’s face it the government nor the economy would exist without us. As a lot of us are finally of age to vote or are voting for the first time this election, we must realize that our voices shape the policies that will govern us in the years to come. The power to create a government that works for us is ours.

We had the chance to flex our political power at the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) Youth Listening Session. Youth advocacy organizations, young Californians, and the Secretary of the LWDA, Julie Su, came together for an open conversation about issues that are impacting young folks the most. The goal of this session was to give young people a space to offer recommendations that the LWDA can use to create public policy that affects job opportunities, wages, and benefits in a post-COVID19 economy. During the three-hour session, we talked about everything from adult bias against young people to the unfair treatment of farmworkers in the Inland Empire (IE). By the end of the conversation, we felt confident in Secretary Su's ability to include our opinions in conversations that will determine what kind of economy we will be entering into as we start building our lives.

We’re worth an economy with accessible & transformative services, programs & on-ramps.

Dania De Ramon, a member of the California Endowment Youth Policy Council, greeted the labor secretary and immediately dove into a first-hand account of what accessing critical services and programs in this economy is like for her and other young adults living in the IE. "I can think of three different Amazon warehouses that are less than 10 minutes away from my place,” she expressed. "My peers go into these jobs, and a lot of times these jobs are minimum wage, they don’t offer good benefits and they don’t treat their workers right.” The point she wanted to leave with the labor secretary is that employment opportunities available to them are not meaningful. Readily available and meaningful job opportunities come from intentional and strategic investment in our communities. Ensuring that our voice is a part of that conversation is critical to ensuring a future economy is one that youth lead.

We deserve a just and anti-racist economy.

We learned from Trinity Garza, an intern at the Dolores Huerta Foundation, that in the IE the working conditions on farms are harsh. Nothing substantial has been put into place to support these workers, and the pay does not reflect how valuable this work is to our economy. “My father’s side of the family has been working in farms for generations,” Trinity shared with the Secretary. Ultimately, to put an end to the cycle of low pay for essential work will continue if we have to challenge corporate companies to pay us our worth. Listening sessions like this are just the start of creating better opportunities for us; however, these changes cannot happen if we don’t use our voices, or if youth voices remain undervalued.

We are worth an economy informed by youth-led governance.

Lupe Renteria, a member of The California Endowment President’s Youth Council, reminded us that the experiences of young people living in disenfranchised communities across the IE and central California are what give us the power to be impactful leaders. “Give them the power and believe that their own lived experiences are enough,” said Lupe. She also affirmed that if corporate companies want young adult talent on their teams, then they have to be intentional about creating space for our voice in shaping the future economy.

Your Voice In Shaping The Future Economy

As the California Secretary of Labor, Julie Su works closely with Governor Newsome to advise him on issues related to workers and jobs. More importantly, she creates policy that will rebuild our post- COVID19 economy. In her words, people deserve good jobs where they can build a life, find meaning in their work, make a difference, and pursue their passions. Her dedication to this work is evident in the way that she actively listened to the youth voices and carefully responded to concerns about our future.

Even though we share these experiences as young people of color, there's a light at the end of this tunnel. We have friendtors and frontors, like Secretary Su, who want to help us create a positive future for ourselves and future generations. The catch is, we have to do our part, use our voices, and put them in power. Although it may not seem like it sometimes, our voices matter, and this event was proof of that.

As Secretary Su said on Saturday, "What we do at the highest levels of government should reflect what is going on in the lives of the real people in California." Make sure you have a plan to vote this November 3, and we can decide on so much more!

Watch a full replay of the listening session here.