An Economic Bill of Rights For the 21st. Century

By Pat Fry

 A day-long conference of academics, economists, labor and community activists discussed an Economic Bill of Rights for the 21st Century – a program of full employment with the right to a job and living wages.

Organized by the National Jobs for All Coalition, The Nation magazine, Dollars & Sense, the Greater NY Labor-Religion Coalition, the Left Labor Project and others, the conference was held at Columbia University in New York City. Panels of speakers from diverse fields, including economics, sociology, social welfare, history, labor and communications, drew on the legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1944 call for a Second Bill of Rights with its guarantee of full employment, living wages, housing, medical care, education, and retirement security.

congressman_john_conyers.jpgRep. John Conyers (D-MI) keynoted the event drawing attention to H.R. 1000, the “Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act.” The bill, reintroduced into Congress in March 2013, currently has 50 Congressional co-sponsors. It would establish a tax on large scale Wall Street securities transactions to fund the creation of 4 million jobs within the first two years of passage.

“Full employment must be at the top of our domestic agenda,” said Conyers. “FDR made the case for full employment with his Second Bill of Rights. He understood that full employment is the foundation of economic democracy. We aren’t going to wait for the private sector – government must do it,” he said.

Noting the efforts of the Black Caucus, the Hispanic Caucus, the Asian-Pacific Caucus and the Progressive Caucus of Congress in supporting HR 1000, Conyers said “in spite of Citizens United, we can win this.” He continued, “We aren’t doing badly with sponsors but there has to be a grass roots campaign to win it. It’s people like you who can make it happen.”

Part of the grass roots support has come from conference participants such as Ed Rosario, a member of the Executive Board of the NYC chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, AFSCME Communications Director Chris Policano, and members of the Left Labor Project, an organization of labor activists in NYC that has been circulating petitions in support of H.R. 1000.

Another panelist, Derrick Hamilton, Associate Professor of Economics and Urban Policy at The New School, focused remarks on the racial disparity in unemployment. “Black people are in a perpetual state of joblessness.” Official Black unemployment is over 13% and white joblessness is 4.8%, said Hamilton.  He calculated that a federally-sponsored full employment program with wages of $30,000 including benefits would cost $750 billion. It is a sum well worth the price if it ends joblessness and brings dignity to human life, said Hamilton.

Economist Dean Baker called for shorter work hours to create more jobs. Germany has reduced the work week and this is, in part, responsible for the country’s much lower 5% unemployment rate.

Michael Lighty, Director of Public Policy for the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United discussed the “Robin Hood Tax,” a bill to establish a financial transactions tax to fund social needs (H.R. 6411, “Inclusive Prosperity Act). Lighty talked about the leading role of the nurses union in championing H.R. 6411 and said the bill is modeled after FDR’s Economic Bill of Rights.

Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation magazine, talked about the need to “retrieve our history” in promoting FDR’s program for full employment. “FDR would be run out of Washington as a radical in today’s Congress,” she said.

David Woolner, Senior Fellow and historian at The Roosevelt Institute, said there is a large network of hundreds of young people on campuses around the country drawn to the study and legacy of FDR through his Institute. He invited participants to connect with it.

Following the conference, a meeting of representatives of sponsoring organizations met with leaders of the National Jobs for All Coalition to discuss a stepped-up plan of action to build a grass roots campaign in support of H.R. 1000 including more Congressional sponsorship.

For more information: www.njfac.org  [1] njfac@njfac.org [2] 203-856-3877

 

Pat Fry is a co-chair of the Committees of Correspondence for
Democracy an Socialism (CCDS)

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership.

Reprinted with permission from Portside. www.portside.org

Film Discussion: The Price We Pay

January 30, 2017
· 44 rsvps
The Price We Pay blows the lid off the dirty world of corporate malfeasance — the dark history and dire present-day reality of big-business tax avoidance, tax havens - and what we need to do to stop this.  DSA member Bill Barclay, who has a cameo role in the film, will facilitate the discussion. Watch the film prior to the discussion.

Full film available on Vimeo.

How to Plug in New Members

February 01, 2017
· 12 rsvps

Is your DSA chapter growing quickly and you're trying desperately to find ways to plug new members into your chapter's work? Never fear! On this conference call an experienced DSA organizer will go over the basics of new member outreach and developing a plan for plugging new members into your chapter's work. Most of the call will be devoted to troubleshooting specific issues you're facing, so please brainstorm some issues beforehand that you want to bring up on the call.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 7 PM PT.

Film Discussion: Salt of the Earth

February 05, 2017
· 9 rsvps

Join DSA members Shelby Murphy and Deborah Rosenfelt in discussing Salt of the Earth, a captivating film made in 1954 by blacklisted writers and actors about a strike at a New Mexico zinc mine. Well before the resurgence of feminism in the 1960s, these filmmakers were exploring gender inequality and solidarity. Available on Netflix.

Shelby Murphy is a Latina from Texas and former Young Democratic Socialists co-chair. Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, Deborah Rosenfelt researched the making of the film and its aftermath for the reissued screenplay. Here is her blogpost about the film.

 

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 3 rsvps

Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But check out their short the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 2 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion.