Union workers stand in Philadelphia, and hear from Obama


An estimated 40,000 trade unionists rallied in Philadelphia Aug. 11, in an event dubbed “Workers Stand for America.”

The rally — timed to precede both the Democratic and Republican conventions — called for fulfillment of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1944 promise of a second Bill of Rights — which would include a right to education, medical care, and decent job. In the Portland area, several dozen people watched the rally via a live telecast at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 48 hall.

The rally was the brainchild of IBEW President Ed Hill, who has been critical of the Democratic National Committee’s choice of Charlotte, North Carolina, as the venue for the party’s 2012 convention. North Carolina is a right-to-work state with the nation’s lowest percentage of union members, and there are no union hotels in Charlotte. IBEW contributed $1 million to the 2008 Democratic convention in Denver, but this year, is sitting out the convention, and instead put energy into the Workers Stand for America rally.

“Right now I’m a sad trade unionist,” Hill told rally-goers in Philadelphia, “sad that we must gather here to begin a campaign to protect all working men and women and the middle class of this country from further erosion, sad that we have precious few people who will work to protect the very thing that built this country to greatness, this country’s might, this country’s very well being.… your issues are being ignored.”

The AFL-CIO’s second Bill of Rights document calls for full employment and a living wage; full participation in the political process; a voice at work; a quality education for all; and a secure and healthy future.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told the crowd that as workers, “We built this country, we wake it up and we put it to sleep, and it’s time to take it back!”  He said hard work alone has never led to decent wages and benefits and retirement for every American. “It’s hard work and activism.”

Trumka later told reporters that labor is campaigning for commitment from politicians to the Bill of Rights. It will be presented to both presidential nominees — incumbent Barack Obama and presumptive GOP candidate Mitt Romney — and other officeholders for their endorsement and signature.

Obama addressed the rally via a four-minute video [at about 1:09:30 in the video.]. In it, Obama acknowledges Hill, Trumka, and Building Trades President Sean McGarvey.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the working men and women in America,” Obama said, “because you guys embody the values that built this country, not just our roads and buildings, but the strongest middle class the world has ever known. You stand for hard work, responsibility, looking out for one another, making sure every one from the board room to the factory floor has a seat at the table and a chance to build a better life for the next generation.”


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