Seeking Jobs, Millennials Take on State Capitols

May 16, 2011

They're ready ... so where are the jobs?


As graduating college students across the country prepare to enter a dismal job market, young people across the country held "Briefcase Brigade" rallies to call attention to the high unemployment rates among Millennials, even those with college degrees.  

On April 27, young people led 30 rallies at city halls and capitol buildings in 22 states and the District of Columbia.  I caught up with the Brigaders in Washington, DC, where the event was light in attendance, but by no means lacking in fervor.   Although fewer than 10 people took part in the Capitol Hill Brigade, they arrived spiffed-up and armed with briefcases and passion. They approached staffers and others coming in and out of the Rayburn and Longworth Congressional office buildings, explaining the Briefcase Brigades and what they stood for. 

Keisha,  a university student, fears what will happen when she graduates in December.  Squeezing an hour of activism between her classes, she said she came out to support the cause as she looked ahead to her future.  “It’s hard to find jobs out of college now,” she told me.  “I want to start a conversation or discussion about the job crisis that [our generation] is facing.  I wanted to do something," she said.

After collecting some signatures and distributing their pile of "generational resumes"—a resume laying out the work-related strengths of the Millennial generation (see an example)—the Brigaders visited the offices of Members of Congress with the most power to influence the economy. 

Briefcases in hand, they headed to the U.S. House of Representatives office buildings, making stops at the offices of Representative Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), DC delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), and Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).  If Ryan’s name sounds familiar, then you’ve been paying attention to the news (or the Daily Show) and the buzz around the federal budget. Rep. Ryan introduced “Pathways to Prosperity,” a budget plan that makes significant cuts to services for children, youth and communities (read more about Ryan's budget here).

Although Congress was in recess, Briagaders were able to speak with staffers in each office and suceeded in setting up a meeting with Holmes Norton.

“We just want to get the message out there,” said Spillman Truhart, a student at the University of the District of Columbia, “and I think that we did that.”

I think they did, too.  The Briefcase Brigaders gained some support from several of the young Capitol Hill interns and staffers they talked to, many of whom felt their pain. 

“Having people who are productive but can’t use their productivity ... is a big asset loss” said Jorge Madrid as the Brigaders discussed their situation on the steps of Longworth House office building. Madrid, 27, is employed but showed up to the Brigade in concern for his generation,

Chatting with passersby and staffers alike, they repeatedly brought up the economic and productivity implications of large-scale youth unemployment and under-employment. The economic argument is what will help those with policymaking power understand that this isn't just about Millennials, it's about the future of our country as a whole, they told me.

April 27 has passed, but the action has just begun for Millennials.  For incoming footage, follow-up, and action tips on youth unemployment, making it through college, and other Millennial issues, keep your eyes on the Briefcase Brigades on Facebook, their Twitter page, and hashtags #april27 and #brigades. And check out our video on the top of this article of the April 27th event, which features footage of Brigades from coast to coast.

Also read: At Least I Have Street Cred - And a Snazzy Suit, a Millennial's perspective on what her generation is in for-- and why some of the reasons why the Briefcase Brigaders felt a need to fight.


Alison Beth Waldman is Editorial Assistant with SparkAction. Email her at


Alison Beth Waldman