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International Week of Young Workers - History PDF Print E-mail

“The YCW opts for the education of young workers. This is the specific and primary task of the YCW if it is to reach the objective of liberation of the mass of people.” - ToE

The IYCW held its international council in 2008 where it defined its campaign for social protection: just work, quality education for life and work, and the establishment of gender equality in social and labor relations for all young workers.

We also defined a series of activities which are included in our international plan of action as entertaining and conscious means to give shape and color to our campaign. These activities include the International Week of the Young Workers which takes place from April 24th to May 1st.

A bit of history

The International Week of the Young Workers celebrated by the IYCW from 24th April to 1st May has its origins in Brazil where it started some 40 years ago. “The Week first took place in 1970 and was institutionalized at the national council which was held the same year.” In other words, the Brazil YCW, though in the middle of a military dictatorship, was carrying out activities to draw attention from the mass of young workers.

Based on this positive experience of the Brazil YCW, the IYCW established the International Week of the Young Workers. And so the National Week of the Young Workers launched in 1970 became an international week in 1985 upon decision of the world council which was held in Madrid, Spain, in 1984.

Ever since, the IYCW has chosen a specific theme every year on young people’s reality and for each theme, it organizes debates and looks for solutions through countless activities.

Before the decision of the World Council in Madrid

Also with regard to the history of the International Week, we would like to quote Rafael Caldera, a former activist of the Venezuela YCW, who said: “The IWYW has not always existed in the history of the YCW. I understand that it was a decision made some 25-30 years ago. But there were indeed similar events organized around August 25, a symbolic date in the past since the huge gathering of young people in Rome took place on August 25, 1957. That day has officially become the International Day of the YCW. However with the dynamic of history, the IWYW is now celebrated on another symbolic day for the working class, May 1st.

It is absolutely certain, however, that May 1st was already celebrated in the YCW before the IWYW was established; the YCW was already organizing activities and promoting its message publicly through its publication “Juventud trabajadora”, it was present at rallies and in the neighborhoods, and was reaching out to young workers at the gates of the factories. There was a whole process that was followed to sell the publication Juventud trabajadora: writing articles, interviewing people, each base group was given responsibilities, there were meetings of young workers to discuss the content of the publication and organize the sale. It was an opportunity for the activists to mobilize young people around them and involve them in this dynamic. For instance, each group would mobilize 30 to 40 young people, according to its capacity, to sell the publication and/or generate discussion on the content with those who bought it.”

The IWYW 2010

The young workers gathered together at the 2008 world council in India wisely defined the IWYW as one of the strategic activities to strengthen the actions of the movement over the 2008-2012 period. It is an activity carried out to mobilize the mass of young workers.

This should be one of our main objectives with the development of our international campaign. In other words, we want our actions and proposals to reach the young workers and by doing so, ensure an increase in the number of activists and/or young people in contact with the movement.

With this in mind, we would like to suggest the following for the 2010 IWYW:

General objective:

Through the action organized and carried out by the IYCW at national, continental and international level, help young workers to have access to a form of social protection which permits them to meet their immediate and future needs.

Specific objectives:

  • Strengthen our campaign for social protection: just work, quality education and gender equality.
  • Support the identification, review and planning of reference actions in the movement.
  • Underscore the importance of and strengthen the IWYW as an essential means of the movement to reach out to the mass of young workers.
  • Reinforce our articulation with other organizations around our campaign on social protection for young workers.


  • In 2010 we have identified, collected, reviewed and planned reference actions in all the NMs of the IYCW.
  • Increase in the number of activists and/or young people in initiation to the movement.
  • Better understanding of the content of social protection and its three priority areas (just work, quality education and gender equality) and link between local/national actions and our international campaign.
  • The social protection campaign has the support of various social/worker organizations at the different levels of the movement (national, regional and international).
  • The IWYW contributes to promoting/strengthening the actions of the movement among young workers. We have raised awareness about fundraising campaigns for the IYCW.
  • The IYCW is visible among young workers and in society.

A strategy based on the method

“Education and organisation, together with the spreading of the movement, are brought about by the involvement of militants in real life situations, acting in union with their fellow young workers.” DOP

An IWYW focused on training:

As an education movement for young workers, the YCW sees the IWYW as an opportunity to raise awareness among young workers about their reality and through that awareness, to empower young workers so that they can solve their immediate problems and fight for a change in society which will enable young people to live in dignity.

An IWYW focused on organizing:

The YCW believes that the liberation of the people, and consequently of young workers, is only possible through the organization of those young people. Therefore it sees the IWYW as an opportunity to encourage young people to set up action structures or action communities which allow them to join forces to reach common objectives, review the action, and discover together the deepest meaning of their lives.

An IWYW focused on demands:

The YCW believes that the action developed by young workers together generates changes in their lives and conditions. Therefore it sees the IWYW as an opportunity to denounce, raise awareness, and call on the relevant institutions (state, companies, society in general) for better living and working conditions for young people and the working class in general.

Theme to work on during the IWYW:

The IYCW is convinced that demanding “social protection for all” is the best way to ensure social, economic and cultural development for young people in all countries.

For the IYCW, Social Protection is a right of young workers which contributes to a society that lives the value of solidarity. It is ensured through programs, policies and laws that guarantee stable and just work, economic security, health, the right to education, as well as equality and freedom for a life in dignity. This security permits young workers to realize their full capacity and to make their contribution to society.

This definition is meaningful because:

We define social protection as a right. As such, it spreads the idea in society that each and every person needs it and should have it.

However, since all the “rights” obtained by workers throughout history are unstable – i.e. we can lose them – unfavorable changes for workers and others can happen. This implies that we should fight for those rights … to have them recognized, to defend them, to preserve them, or to improve them.

In our definition, social protection also contributes to strengthening the value of solidarity.

We can say that solidarity has various dimensions, one of which is more subjective: when we talk of solidarity, we refer to a feeling of love which unites human beings, strengthens our relations and bonds of friendship, and preserves our affection and devotion to our fellow human beings, our neighbors.

We can mention another dimension which is more objective: those who most possess in society must share with those who have less or nothing. In other words, real solidarity in society can only be built through fair distribution of wealth.

Our definition specifies that this is ensured through programs, policies and laws established by our national states.

The IYCW has also defined that the main mechanism to ensure that is essentially stable and just work for all. Other mechanisms such as economic security, health, the right to education, or equality and freedom, are also essential.

Therefore, our next International Week of the Young Workers wants to encourage young people to move and make them aware of the need to struggle for those objectives which are not only the objectives of the YCW but those of the society as a whole.

Activities to be carried out

“The YCW also reaches the people through means which facilitate and supplement the efforts of militant action; for example enquiries, rallies, congresses, meetings, newsletters, activities, special campaigns, action committees, and services.” - DOP

All the national movements (at local or national level) will be able to carry out their own specific activities, linking them with our international campaign and with the specific objectives and results mentioned in this document. At the international level, we want to:

  • Collect youth testimonies (videos, written testimonies, other means…).
  • Collect actions and plan specific actions (using the monograph of action document).
  • Work on the objectives and the meaning of the international campaign (send documents to NM).
  • Disseminate the actions and testimonies (using the IYCW website, posters, …).
  • Raise awareness about fundraising campaigns for the IYCW (fundraising by the young workers themselves).
  • And mostly, massify the actions and proposals of the IYCW for young workers (through the various activities carried out in the national movements).

We urge you to carry out actions and activities, campaigns or other events which will strengthen your national movement and, consequently, the international movement as a whole.

Each young worker is worth more than all the gold in the world. We still believe in this thought of Cardijn… Let’s win the hearts of the mass of young workers!

The International Team


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