A working class bill of rights

The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights have always been aspirations. When Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, it was hardly obvious that “all men are created equal.” It took nearly a century before the 14e The amendment promised “equal protection under the law”, and another century ago could be considered anything but a cruel hoax.

Yet these founding documents inspired abolitionists to fight slavery, women to fight for the right to vote, workers to form unions, and civil rights heroes to persevere in the face of pervasive racism.

Today, many working-class Americans have lost faith in the promises of these documents. And why wouldn’t they do it when George Floyd could be executed for a $ 20 bill while the Sackler family walk away with billions after committing the crime of the century. With 85% of the country’s wealth concentrated in the hands of the richest 10% of Americans, many believe that the opportunity to “secure the blessings of freedom” for themselves and future generations has vanished. quickly, maybe forever. Instead of eagerly awaiting the “more perfect union” envisioned by the Constitution, working-class Americans doubt their country’s ability to “establish justice and ensure domestic tranquility.”

This doubt created anxiety among working class and middle class families. Worse yet, NAFTA-loving corporate Democrats barely recognized and failed to address this erosion of belief. Donald Trump filled that void with spurious populism, promises of a return to an ideal America primarily for white men, and hateful rhetoric that blamed the country’s ills on the poor, minorities and immigrants. And a surprising number of Americans were eager to drink his poisonous brew.

While the Democratic Party has yet to distill an antidote to Trump’s hateful elixir, we believe its key ingredient must be a comprehensive package of policy initiatives to tackle income inequality, property, the justice system, the electoral process and quality of life issues. a “Working Class Bill of Rights” that could help secure the “blessings of freedom” for working class families now and in the future.

The right to organize

Union membership has long been recognized as the path to prosperity and security for working men and women. But as the recent unsuccessful attempt to organize an Amazon installation in Alabama illustrates, laws governing labor organizing in the United States are long overdue for reform. Along with the recently passed PRO Act by the US House, Congress is expected to enact laws that require recognition of card checks in campaigning and ban the use of scabs and permanent replacement workers.

The right to earn a living wage

As David Leonhardt put it bluntly in a recent New York Times comment, “Workers’ compensation is lower than at any time in the second half of the 20th century.” Only the rich have seen their incomes increase significantly in recent decades. Raising unionization is one way to raise wages, but raising the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour and indexing it to inflation is the fastest and most efficient way to make work pay in the States- United. According to the Economic Policy Institute, raising the minimum wage would raise the wages of 32 million workers, generate $ 107 billion in higher wages and strengthen businesses, communities and the economy in general.

The right to equal justice before the law

In the United States, corporate executives, billionaires and police officers are subject to one standard of criminal culpability and members of the working class to another. Corporate criminals and public officials, including police officers, should be prosecuted with the same enthusiasm as working class shoplifters. Wealthy individuals and CEOs of companies who break the law should face the same consequences as criminals who are not wealthy.

The right to free legal representation in civil proceedings

Equal justice requires fair representation. The Sixth Amendment guarantees the assistance of a lawyer to the accused in all criminal proceedings, although the right to free legal representation in criminal proceedings was not established until 1963. In this decision of the Court Supreme, Judge Hugo Black wrote that “[L]criminal court lawyers are necessities, not luxuries. We believe the same is true of our civil courts.

Read the rest of this article on Working Class Perspectives.


Marc Dann was Ohio State Attorney General and now heads DannLaw, which specializes in protecting consumers from various forms of predatory financing. Leo Jennings III is a leading political consultant and media expert in Northeastern Ohio.

Photo: National Archives of the United States via Flickr, in the public domain


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