Huge Rally Demands A Second Bill of Rights For Americans

Dave Johnson

More than 35,000 working people attended Saturday’s Workers Stand For America rally in Philadelphia – the birthplace of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights – to demand an economy that works for all of us. This rally was called to support America’s Second Bill of Rights, inspired by President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1944 proposed economic Bill of Rights.

The Rally

The rally took place at Eakins Oval in Philadelphia. More than 35,000, and possibly as many as 40,000, people attended.

Speakers and entertainment included AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, singer Lucinda Williams, former Philips worker Bo McCurry, Education activist Helen Gym, Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers President Ed Hill, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Secretary Treasurer of the Philadelphia AFL-CIO Liz McElroy. President Barack Obama addressed the crowd on video.

At the rally the AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka said that workers are the “job creators,” and “Those who say we have to downsize the American dream don’t know what they are talking about.”

“We built this country! We wake it up every day, we make it run and we put it to sleep every night — and it’s time that we took it back for the American worker,” he said. “Anyone who says America can’t afford retirement security, or health care, or decent pay for honest work, or great schools, or a postal service, or cops or firefighters and teachers and nurses, well they don’t know what they’re talking about and we won’t accept their defeatism!”

Liz McElroy, secretary treasurer of the Philadelphia AFL-CIO, said,

“We want to advance an agenda where it’s okay to have a middle class again and workers who speak up for their rights are not vilified and people who have a decent pension and maybe a little healthcare when they retire aren’t the enemy.”

Clifford Glass, a veteran denied his right to vote, addressed the rally and said he had voted in every election since 1960, but now is denied the right to vote because he uses his veteran’s ID, which is not sufficient under new voter-ID laws.

FDR’S Proposed Economic Bill of Rights

Here is what President Roosevelt had to say to the country back in his 1944 State of the Union message, as the country fought World War II:

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.

That was an American President, back when the government really was our government, of by and for We, the People.

America’s Second Bill of Rights

America’s Second Bill of Rights is an effort to rally people around a clear statement of economic rights for all Americans. People are asked to sign this, and it will be presented to delegates at the Republican and Democratic national conventions. The message will be delivered through all available media to working families throughout America to put public officials on notice that working people are tired of being ignored.

America’s Second Bill of Rights begins,

“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 items in the Second Bill of Rights are:

  • The Right to Full Employment and a Living Wage
  • The Right to Full Participation in the Electoral Process
  • The Right to a Voice at Work
  • The Right to a Quality Education
  • The Right to a Secure, Healthy Future

The details of America’s Second Bill of Rights:

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.

Go to to sign the petition.

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