Philly Labor Hosts ‘Workers Stand For America’

Filed under: Labor,Subject Categories |

INVITING middle-class Philadelphians to attend first national “Workers Stand For America” labor rally at Eakins Oval on Parkway, this Saturday at 11 a.m., is IBEW Local 98 Business Mgr. John J. Dougherty, Jr., and other officials from AFL-CIO and Teamsters Unions.

Philadelphia’s labor movement has been given the responsibility to host the first annual “Workers Stand For America” national rally this Saturday, Aug. 11.

The mission behind the first-of-its-kind event is to kick off a national campaign to change the conversation in America; to counter those forces preaching austerity for the vast majority of citizens and to refocus national attention on jobs, economic opportunity and the restoration of the American dream for all.

It will take place on Eakins Oval on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway from 11:00 a.m. until approximately 4:00 p.m. The free event, essentially a middle-class summit of working Americans, will feature live musical performances and nationally prominent speakers.

The Workers Stand For America rally is the brainchild of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers President Ed Hill and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, with a big local assist from IBEW Local 98 Business Mgr. John J. Dougherty and other leaders in Philadelphia’s labor community. Earlier in the week, Philadelphia’s labor leaders gathered at Local 98’s Spring Garden Street union hall to promote the importance of the event, the schedule of speakers, and musical performers, including South Philly’s own Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Charlie Gracie, who performed for the labor leaders in attendance.

Dougherty, who hosted the event, told the group, “The labor movement gave rise to America’s middle class. Before the hard-won gains of labor, workers had no protections. There were no such things as a 40-hour work week, weekends, paid holidays, benefits or pensions. People have labor to thank for those gains that most people now take for granted.  In this current climate, however, we in the labor movement find ourselves fighting just to stay lower-middle class. That’s unacceptable in a nation that was built on generations of labor.

“This Saturday, more than 30,000 union members and middle-class people from many states and all walks of life are gathering together to show our strength in numbers and vent our frustration at what’s become of American society and the policies that seem geared almost entirely to the well-being of the richest while the rest of us are left behind. This is not a political event, but it is a message to all politicians: ignore us at your own risk.”

Also addressing the importance of the Saturday rally were Elizabeth McElroy, secretary-treasurer Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO; Pat Gillespie, business manager, Philadelphia Building Trades Council; Henry Nicholas, president, NUHHCE; and Jerry Jordan, president of Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

The rally is timed to precede both the Republican and Democratic national conventions to insure both national parties get the message. Philadelphia was selected to host the event because it is here the words “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” changed the world. It was in Philadelphia that the Bill of Rights, the most-practical enumeration of fundamental human values, was adopted.

That timeless document inspired the Workers Stand for America organizers to create a second Bill of Rights, inspired by President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1944 proposed economic Bill of Rights. The architects of Workers Stand for America will call on working people from all walks of life to sign the Second Bill of Rights, which will be presented to delegates at the Republican and Democratic national conventions.

Following is the full text of America’s Second Bill of Rights:

“We the People want to strengthen our nation, as a beacon of equality, economic opportunity and freedom for all. We hold these rights to be essential to our vision of America and believe that the principles contained therein should guide our government, business leaders, organizations and individuals in our common goal of a just and fair society.

“The Right to Full Employment and a Living Wage: 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.

“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.

“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.

“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.

“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.”

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