PHILADELPHIA -- Tens of thousands of labor movement supporters came together in Philadelphia Saturday for a rally meant to demonstrate the movement's political clout ahead of the party conventions and the presidential election.
At the Workers Stand for America rally, organized by the AFL-CIO, unions laid out what they deemed a "Second Bill of Rights" -- a set of demands that the nation’s largest labor federation plans to use to try and influence the conversation during the electoral season. The group also said it would try to pressure politicians into supporting its ideas in exchange for endorsements.
Harkening back to the “Economic Bill of Rights” outlined by Franklin Roosevelt in a 1944 speech, the Second Bill of Rights calls for a right to full employment, a living wage, participation in the electoral process, the right to organize and collectively bargain, the right to a quality education and the right to decent social services.
"We'll be asking all elected officials, all Americans, to sign their name in support of those values and make it the guidepost of national economic and social policy going forward. This is not primarily about electoral politics," Ed Hill, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), told the crowd. "Today, we create a roar of protest over the status quo and a clear demand for a new day."
The rally included a cross-section of the American labor movement -- public employees, teachers, construction workers, electrical workers and workers in the telecommunications industries were all in attendance. Some attendees spoke about their frustration with the state of the economy and the way politicians have held unions responsible for it.
"We're tired of being taken advantage of," Joe Colucci, a native of Western Pennsylvania and business manager for the Ironworkers Local 36, told The Huffington Post. "We're bad guys because we want a pension, health care for our workers -- we’re bad people because we want that? ... The one-percenters don’t want us to have benefits but they want them for their families."
Saturday’s rally took place under the shadow of recent tension between unions and the Democratic Party. Unions said they are frustrated that the Democrats are holding their convention in right-to-work North Carolina. The AFL-CIO said it will not contribute as many resources to this year’s convention as it has in years past.
Labor's monetary contributions to the Democratic National Convention have been scaled back, and while unions typically sponsor events at the DNC, they have yet to do so this year.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told The Huffington Post that Saturday’s rally was part of a larger effort to build a political structure independent of Democrats.
"It's us exercising our voice for an economy that works for everybody, and ... [we are] inviting people to come and join -- politicians of both stripes," Trumka said. "This isn't about the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. This is about working people, about what's best for the country and creating an economy that works for everyone."
The general tone of the rally stood in contrast to the last major national rally that unions helped organize, the 2010 One Nation Working Together rally on the National Mall. That rally, held just over a month after Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor rally on the same space, was an effort to energize liberal voters ahead of the mid-term elections that year.
Speakers on Saturday didn't outright outright criticize the Democratic Party -- both the union leadership and the rank-and-file members in attendance showed a clear preference for Democrats. Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus was invited, according to Trumka, but did not attend. Prominent Democrats such as Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Democratic National Committee chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) delivered speeches. President Barack Obama appeared in a pre-taped video message, which was received with loud applause.
Jim Underwood, a member of IBEW Local 666 who traveled to the rally from Richmond, Va., said he hoped it would "ignite something." When asked if he was excited about voting in November, he illustrated the dilemma that many union members have when it comes to filling out their ballots.
"I mean, I don't have but one choice, and that's Obama," he said. "Mitt Romney wants to shut us down."
Nuts Bring Buckets of Same
Just in case anyone forgot that the House Judiciary Committee ACORN hearing was a House Judiciary Committee hearing about ACORN, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/02/acorn-hearing-a-barrel-of_n_376882.html">Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) helpfully brought a bucket of acorns</a> to the House Judiciary Committee. Also that day, colleague Lamar Smith praising the "turnout so early in the day" at 2:30pm, and Louie Gohmert offering up the malaprop: “From one acorn, many nuts can grow.” Like, say, Peter King.
Hello Kitty, Hello Revolving Debt
Credit cards. Were it not for them, we would have to save up money in order to buy things. But do some credit cards take it too far, marketing to the youths? Byron Dorgan thought so when he saw the Hello Kitty Platinum VISA. "Does it seem to you like they’re targeting that 10-year-old, the 14-year-old." Ha! He should see the <a href="http://www.shopinprivate.com/hello-kitty-pink-guilty.html">Hello Kitty vibrator</a>.
"I'll See Your Baby, And Raise You Two Tweens"
Last time out, we made mention of Representative John Shadegg's (R-Ariz.) attempt to wield a baby in order to make a point about how terrible health care reform was. We neglected to mention that Representative Pete Stark (D-Calif.) took it a step further, and attempted to bring two young children to make his own points about health care (5:25 in video), at which point the House was officially barred from trafficking in human props any further.
John Thune's Stackin' Dollars
How much is too much stimulus? When it allows representatives to make junior high math analogies based on topography and astronomy, maybe. Here, Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) makes some stupid pictures of dollar stacks that extend into the sky, to the celestial firmament itself. “If you took 100 dollar bills, Mr. President," Thune said, "and stacked them on top of each other you would have a stack that goes 689 miles high.” He added, "In other words, if you took the 100 dollar bills and not stacked them on top of each other, but wrapped them side-by-side all around the earth… If you could believe this, it’d go around the earth almost 39 times." So, we cannot stimulate the economy, because of science! (1:15 in clip)
Gettin' High On Your Own Supply (Of A Substance That Does Not Get You High)
Representative Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) wasn't having any of that whole "regulating tobacco" stuff. Why? Because it's "not the nicotine that kills, it's the smoke!" So, he argued, why don't we regulate lettuce, to keep people from smoking lettuce? Wouldn't that prevent a "pandemic" of cancers? This would have been a good point, were it not for the non-existence of either a massive industry geared toward curing lettuce and rolling it into cigarettes, or a target market of consumers who were even remotely interested in smoking lettuce. BUT YEAH OTHER THAT ALL THAT STUFF (and the fact that nicotine is addictive) STEVE BUYER IS A GENIUS.
And Now, A Poem From Ted Poe
From Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas): <i>It came on two pages, It has withstood the ages. / The word "shall,'' is only 10 times mentioned, But enough to get one's attention. / No taxes did this law raise, To this day it continues to create much praise; / Two great religions does it claim, The "Law of the Ten Commandments'' is its name. / A current writing, 1,990 pages long, Has a socialist philosophy that is all wrong; / Difficult for the people to understand, And troubling what big government doth demand. / Over 3,445 "shalls'' it does loudly shout, New massive taxes does it proudly tout; / Written in secret by the bureaucrats, For exclusive use of the taxacrats. / The Congressional bill called "Health Care Reform," Is illusionary, the authors are still ill-informed; / Government ought not take over America's health biz. / And that's just the way it is."</i> And so, America, this is why you should have to die of easily treated medical conditions.
And Now, An Even Dumber Poem, From Roland Burris
From the junior senator from Illinois: <i>"It was the night before Christmas, and all through the Senate / The right held up our health care bill, no matter what was in it / The people had voted a mandated reform / But Republicans blew off the gathering storm / We'll clog up the Senate, they cried with a grin / And in the midterm elections, we'll get voted in / They knew regular folks needed help right this second / But fundraisers, lobbyists and politics beckoned / So try as they might, Democrats could not win / Because the majority was simply too thin / Then across every state there rose such a clatter / The whole senate rushed out to see what was the matter / All sprang up from their desk and ran from the floor / Straight through the cloakroom and right out the door."</i> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/22/burris-backs-reform-with_n_400456.html">There's more</a>, but you will probably want to shoot yourself in the face after you read it.
Chuck Grassley Goes All Aggro On The Speaker Box
For some reason, in the course of discussing fuel efficiency standards, Senator Chuck Grassley decided he should drive his point home by shouting out Ashton Kutcher and his movie, "Dude, Where's My Car." Prior to this, Grassley went on an <a href="http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Speech_by_GOP_Senator_references_stoner_0924.html">extended monologue</a> about Pink Floyd's <i>Dark Side of the Moon</i> album and the shards of a broken prism and the "multishades" of light. Just straight up tripping balls, in the well of the Senate. Anyway, as you now know, this TOTALLY fixed fuel efficiency standards!
Sam Brownback Will Save Your Inanimate Genetic Material
Who's looking out for your precious bodily fluids? Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, that's who. And he's enlisted the help of a young girl, named Hannah, who has the power of talking to human embryos! "<a href="http://thinkprogress.org/2006/07/18/brownback-embryo/">Are you going to kill me?</a>" the embryos asked Hannah, who immediately scrawled a picture of this conversation on a giant piece of posterboard, so that Sam Brownback could stop people from killing the stem cells. And then Sam Brownback went on to support a bunch of wars in the Middle East!
The Most Important Prop Of All
James Inhofe (R-Batshit) hates him some gay marriage, and the gays in general. And to make his point, he carries around with him The Most Important Prop in America: a picture of his family. "As you see here, and I think this is maybe the most important prop we’ll have during the entire debate, my wife and I have been married 47 years. We have 20 kids and grandkids. I’m really proud to say that in the recorded history of our family, we’ve never had a divorce or any kind of homosexual relationship." Ha! THAT HE KNOWS OF!