AFL-CIO Demands ‘Second Bill of Rights’--Including 'Rights' to 'Full Employment,' 'Living Wage,' 'Healthy Future'

Gabriella Hoffman | July 17, 2012 | 11:53am EDT
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( – AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says his organization is pushing for a 'Second Bill of Rights" for the United States of America.

The first Bill of Rights, sponsored by Jamed Madison in the U.S. House of Representatives, protected, among other things, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, the free exercisie of religion, the right to keep and bear arms, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the right not to have one's private property taken by the government unless for a public use and with just compensation.

Trumka and the AFL-CIO are calling for a new bill of rights that would guarantee "full employment," a "living wage," and a "healthy future."

Under the current system, Americans are free to create businesses, and thus jobs, and to freely compete for workers with the wages and benefits they can afford and wish to offer. As America is currently constituted, Americans who do not start their own businessess but nonetheless want to work are free to work for any business that will hire them, or not work for a business they do no wish to work for. Americans are also free to negotiate--including collectively in labor unions--for whatever wages and benefits they can get.

Under a "Second Bill of Rigths" as proposed by the AFL-CIO, it is unclear how the government would guarantee a "right" to "full employment," a "living wage" and a "healthy future."

Trumka intends to push both the Democrats and Republicans “the Second Bill of Rights” at their national conventions this summer.

“America’s Second Bill of Rights is a broad-based statement of what the American people need and what they deserve. If some of it sounds redundant, it is because we once took many of these rights for granted,” Trumka said last Thursday at the National Press Club.

Trumka was joined by Edwin D. Hill, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, to announce the “Workers Stand with America” rally in Philadelphia, Pa., on August 11. The event is intended to “refocus attention on the needs of middle class working Americans and to urge elected officials and leaders from both parties and every part of the nation to stand with them.”

“We plan to put new energy behind insisting that the power structure in America pay attention to the needs of the men and women whose labor drives this country,” Trumka said.

He outlined five main tenets of the Second Bill of Rights, which, in addition to the "right to full employment and a living wage," and "the right to a secure and healthy future," also includes the "right to full participation in the electoral process," the "right to a quality education"; and the "right to a voice at work."

The idea of a Second Bill of Rights was inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1944 State of the Union address, which called for greater “economic rights” including employment through a living wage, collective bargaining, housing, education, medical care, among many things.

Hill said that Big Labor will pressure both major political parties to add this Second Bill of Rights to their respective party platforms.

“Republicans and Democrats need to hear what people are saying, and to break through the gridlock and the attacks on the rights of workers at all levels of the government,” Hill said.

He added: “We want to hold all the leadership positions, hold everyone in leadership positions and that includes private and both public sectors, accountable to the American people.”

Trumka, meanwhile, tried to downplay the fact that the “movement” is union-led, saying he welcomes non-union participants who share the same goals as the union organizers.

“This is not a union bill of rights. And our campaign and our rally on August 11 is not just for union members,” said Trumka. “Are you with us? Are you with the Second Bill of Rights?”

Earlier that morning, Hill met with Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who agreed to speak at the August 11 event and support the cause. No Republican has agreed to support the Second Bill of Rights or speak at the "Workers Stand with America" event at this time.

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