On Saturday, tens of thousands of workers and labor representatives rallied in Philadelphia demanding that both political parties answer calls for middle class protections. The Workers Stand for America rally called for, among other things, a Second Bill of Rights which you can see Building and Construction Trades Department (AFL-CIO) President Sean McGarvey signing here…
Attendance estimates ranged from 30,000 to 40,000 union and non-union working men and women. They descended upon the Cheesesteak Capitol of the World to demand a living wage, full employment, health care, and re-stabilized security in their retirements and childrens’ educations as well as the respect of the right to collectively bargain.
The Second Bill of Rights is a modern workers’ manifesto that is viewed by organizers as a “Grover Norquist style” (ick) pledge intended for politicians and candidates to sign and adhere to. Demands of the workers platform include:
Full employment and a living wage.
Full participation in the electoral process.
A voice in the workplace.
A high-quality education.
A secure, healthy future.
Pennsylvania Congressman Bob Brady, who has signed the pledge, gave a brief speech to the crowd touting both the document’s principles and the belief that austerity-based politics cut workers out of the political process.
“You built this country!” Brady shouted. “Do not let the one-percenters take over the country. Don’t stop now. Fight for your children. Fight for your mothers and fathers. I’ll fight for you. Union all the way!”
Many other politicians are likely to sign the pledge before or during the Democratic National Convention over Labor Day Weekend.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, a main proponent of the “Second Bill of Rights,” gave an impassioned speech to the highly receptive crowd:
“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!”
Other speeches by out-of-work union members hit home with fellow workers. Tom Gallo of Swedesboro, New Jersey told CBS Philly,
“We built this country, and right now there is such a difference between the rich and the middle class. We have to start protecting the working men here,”
Before the rally, 3,000 Verizon workers protested at the Verizon Building on Ninth and Race Streets. Many attendees brought their families, another central theme of the event. Verizon employee and CWA member Nancy Mathieu, brought her children from Manhattan:
“I want them to understand how hard I work and how hard we have to fight to keep what we have,” she said as singer Lucinda Williams began a concert on the stage. “When we go on strike, they don’t understand it – they see it as I’m on vacation. With this, it makes them feel part of it and helps them feel like ‘OK, I’m struggling with my parents.’”
Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, Jr. spoke to the crowd of workers and thanked them for their efforts. He praised the accomplishments both unions and the labor movement at large had achieved for American society:
“You built the middle class, you’re going to continue to build the middle class,” Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., told the crowd. “You help people who are sometimes not even in a union, because you lift all boats when you fight for those rights.”
Many other labor leaders were in attendance lending their support for the proposed Second Bill of Rights. The following video, produced by the Communications Department of International Association of Machinists District Lodge 141 features other speech highlights: