Almost every union in the nation is mobilizing for a massive "Workers Stand For America" rally in Philadelphia August 11. A "Second Bill of Rights" will be unveiled at the unprecedented event, which is expected to have a major impact on the 2012 elections.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Electrical Workers President Ed Hill , in announcing the event at a Washington press conference yesterday, said the Workers Stand for America campaign will be an important part of labor's political efforts this year.
The aim will be to get elected officials and candidates at the national, state and local level to sign on in support of the new "bill of rights" with unions mounting major campaigns to tell their members which lawmakers are in support and which ones are not.
In a July 9 memo to all union presidents, Trumka said he will also go to Charlotte, N.C., where the Democratic National Convention is being held Sept. 4-6. He will attend a special meeting of the hundreds of union members and retirees who will be attending the convention as delegates. The union delegates are expected then to take the labor bill of rights and talk it up with all the delegations and lawmakers at the convention.
Countering those in the media who have interpreted the planned Philly rally as a snub at the Democratic Convention, Hill declared at yesterday's press conference that "the August 11 rally was never meant to be a slap at the Democratic National Convention." He said that labor had been upfront with its unhappiness about the selection of a right to work for less state like North Carolina as the convention site but that those concerns had "nothing to do with" the calling of the rally in Philly. "They're not related issues. One thing did not germinate the other," he said.
The labor bill of rights to be unveiled in August centers around five points: Full employment at a living wage; Full participation in elections and politics; The right to a voice at work; The right to a quality education and The right to a secure, healthy future.
"The right to full participation in elections and politics includes protecting the right to vote," Trumka declared at the press conference. He noted that this is the first election in years where there has been a concerted effort to deprive people of voting rights "for partisan purposes."
Trumka said Republicans ate not even bothering to conceal the aims of their voter suppression efforts. "A GOP Republican leader in my home state, Pennsylvania, told fellow Republicans that the aim of the Voter ID law was to disenfranchise enough people to let Romney win Pennsylvania."
State election officials in Pennsylvania say the new law will toss 700,000 people, most of them minorities, women, workers, students and the elderly, off the rolls.
On the issue of a right to a voice at work the labor bill of rights says 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.
On education, the bill of rights says that "quality, affordable education should be universally available from pre-kindergarten to college, including apprenticeships and teaching of specialty skills U.S. workers need to compete."
During the discussion of the fifth right, the right to a secure, healthy future, Trumka vigorously defended President Obama's health care law.
He challenged Republicans to take away the law's benefits, including coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, prescription drug assistance for seniors, outlawing of discrimination in rates for women and provisions to keep children on family policies until the age of 26.
At the same time he said unions see the law as "a first major step" in the fight for better health care. "We will continue to fight for Medicare for all," he said.
Photo: Ohio workers here gathered petitions to overturn a law that destroyed collective bargaining rights in their state. The right of all workers to collective bargain with their employers will be part of a new labor bill of rights coming out of the Aug. 11 rally in Philadelphia. Via Bill Obbagy, editor of The Cleveland Citizen labor newspaper.