There are times in my life that have inspired hope and times that I have felt great despair. Yesterday was a day for hope.
On Saturday, August 11th 2012, 35,000 plus working men and women from all walks of life braved the heat in Philadelphia to take to the streets and declare that we have had enough!
They came for the Workers Stand for America rally, but it was so much more than a rally. We heard from speakers like AFL-CIO President Trumka, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, US Senator Bob Casey Jr. (PA-D) and US Representative Bob Brady (PA-D) and wrapped up with music entertainment from Grammy Award winner Lucinda Williams. But the biggest impact came from workers telling their story of struggle in this modern American economy.
From the stories we heard of hardship and frustration, we certainly have our work cut out for us. This won’t be easy and struggle will continue, but anything worthwhile takes time and perseverance. Do you think all that our Grandparents and those before them fought for happened over night? No, it took decades of fighting for the real American dream, for equality in the workplace, access to the electoral process, for the protections and rights that many of us take for granted. Rights which are slowly being chipped away.
Congressman Bob Brady (PA-1) spoke very passionately about what had happened in Wisconsin last year and the attacks on working families around the country. He said in a way he was happy about them. “They woke a sleeping giant! You are a sleeping giant!”, he said to the crowd.
One key piece of this current movement is America’s Second Bill of Rights. Five rights that the working people of America should have the opportunity to access, they are as follows:
1. The Right to Full Employment and a Living Wage:This Second Bill of Rights is being taken to every elected official from both major parties as well as Independents. Politicians who are with working Americans will sign and those that aren’t won’t, we will see who truly are for the betterment of all workers and the middle class and who are just in it for themselves.
All Americans willing and able to work have the right to safe, gainful employment at a fair and livable wage. We call on the public and private sectors to invest in America’s infrastructure and promote industrial development, maintaining job creation as a top policy priority.
2. The Right to Full Participation in the Electoral Process:
Recent initiatives to disenfranchise citizens seek to reduce the rolls of eligible voters and empower money instead of people. We believe these actions constitute an assault on our nation’s democracy and history of heroic struggle against voting restrictions based upon property ownership, religion, race and gender and call for reinforcing our fundamental right to vote.
3. The Right to a Voice at Work:
All workers have the right of freedom of association in the workplace, including the right to collectively bargain with their employer to improve wages, benefits and working conditions.
4. The Right to a Quality Education:
Education is a fundamental bedrock of our democracy, vital to America’s competitive position in the world and the principal means by which citizens empower themselves to participate in our nation's economic and political systems. Quality, affordable education should be universally available from pre-kindergarten to college level, including an expanded use of apprenticeships and specialty skills training to prepare Americans for the workplace.
5. The Right to a Secure, Healthy Future:
Americans have the right to a baseline level of health care, unemployment insurance and retirement security, all of which have been badly eroded by the disruption of the social compact that served the nation well for decades. We call on government and private industry together to confront the issues of declining access to health care especially for children, weakening of unemployment coverage, and inadequate pension plans that undermine the ability of working men and women to retire in dignity, even as Social Security and Medicare are under strain and threatened with cutbacks.
Workers Stand for America is just the first step; the time to push the Working Peoples’ agenda is NOW! Men and women that work a manufacturing line, labor on construction sites, those that work in an office or teach in a classroom, we must unite. No matter your color, creed or political party; your fight is my fight and vice versa.
While the Labor Movement is leading the charge this is about all workers union and non-union, blue and white collar to realize the American dream of the middle class that was fought and won a good part of a century ago and has been under assault for far too long. I’m ready to stand and fight. Are you?