Thursday, December 12, 2013

Aspirations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Aspirations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
By Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, co-authored by Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg and Sheila Collins
December 11, 2013, cross-posted from Huffington Post

On Tuesday, December 10 the world observed Human Rights Day, marking the 65th anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations of a Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is sometimes forgotten that this Universal Declaration has important roots in American soil. The Commission that framed the Universal Declaration was led by Eleanor Roosevelt who was deeply influenced by her husband, President Franklin Roosevelt's thinking, particularly regarding the interdependence of economic, political, and civil rights. As she observed at the time, President Roosevelt believed that freedom without bread was meaningless.
In his Annual Message to Congress in 1944, President Roosevelt went further in joining the vaunted American ideal of freedom and liberty to economic rights: by proposing an Economic or Second Bill of Rights. In this message, Roosevelt referred to the U.S. Constitution and invoked familiar words, phrases and ideals from the American Declaration of Independence:
This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights.... They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however--as our industrial economy expanded--these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.....
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all....
Roosevelt's Economic Bill of Rights began with the guarantee of what he subsequently referred to as the "paramount right" -- the right to useful work. It was to be living-wage work that would "earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation." The Universal Declaration, for its part, further elaborated this economic right, calling, in addition to the right to work, the right for just and favorable payment, for equal pay for equal work, and for the right to form and join trade unions.
Unfortunately, this paramount economic right has not been accepted as self-evident, either in the United States or elsewhere. The failure to guarantee this right is not simply a consequence of the worldwide Great Recession. Also at play, is the divergence between productivity growth and wage growth, where gains have gone almost exclusively to the top earners -- exacerbating income inequality. An estimated 18 million people in the United States are working poor, meaning they are employed full-time, year-round for less than the four-person poverty level -- around $22,000 in earnings per year. Meanwhile, 10.9 million Americans are unemployed and an additional 5.7 million "missing workers" have completely dropped out of the jobs search and are no longer counted in the monthly Jobs Reports.
The rise in poverty in America underscores that it is time for Congress to act, to pivot away from austerity, and focus on creating jobs and economic growth for everyone, as it has done historically. Today, millions of American families are struggling to satisfy their basic needs. Our solution to this poverty and unemployment crisis is the "Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act" (H.R. 1000), a 21st Century New Deal proposal to put all Americans to work rebuilding and modernizing our communities.
The declared ideals of nations or united nations are important, for even though achievements fall short of aspirations, they can serve to urge humanity forward. Take the paradox of a Declaration by slaveholders that "all men are created equal." Even at the dark moment when too many of the gains of Civil War had been lost, the great African-American leader W.E.B. DuBois urged his people to "cling unwaveringly" to "those great words" of the Declaration. In observing Human Rights Day we must "cling unwaveringly" to the ideals of the Universal Declaration and its stirring American antecedents, but we must seize the opportunity to take stock of the gap between aspirations and achievements in order to urge ourselves forward.
Representative John Conyers, Jr. is the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, representing Southeast Michigan. Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg is Professor Emerita of Social Policy at Adelphi University. Sheila D. Collins is Professor Emerita of Political Science at William Paterson University. They are co-founders of the National Jobs for All Coalition, and editors/co-authors of the recently published, When Government Helped: Learning from the Successes and Failures of the New Deal (Oxford University Press, 2013).

Murray-Ryan Budget Deal Fails to Extend Aid for Long-Term Unemployed Workers

More than 2 million unemployed workers will lose federal jobless aid by early 2014, if Congress allows Federal Benefits to shut down at year's end

Source: National Employment Law Project

Despite efforts by Democrats, the recent budget deal struck by Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Paul Ryan failed to include extension of benefits for long-term unemployed workers.  See great issue brief from National Employment Law Project on the risk that Congress may cutoff aid to long-term unemployed workers:

"...In the wake of October’s harmful government shutdown, we now face another critical looming deadline – the shutdown of federal unemployment insurance for long-term unemployed workers at the end of December. As detailed below, with unemployment still unacceptably high, labor market conditions persistently weak and long-term unemployment remaining at crisis levels, Congress must act to avert a shutdown of federal jobless aid and swiftly renew the program for 2014.

If Congress fails to reauthorize the federally-funded Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program, more than two million unemployed job-seekers will lose federal jobless aid by the end of March 2014. In the week between Christmas and New Year’s, the 1.3 million workers currently receiving federal EUC willbe abruptly cut off. Another 850,000 workers will run out of stateunemployment insurance in the first three months of 2014, with no access to federal EUC..."

Read the NELP Issue Brief

Visit the National Employment Law Project web site:

Sunday, October 20, 2013

An Economic Bill of Rights for the 21st Century (webcast)


John Conyers @The Economic Bill of Rights for the...

Rep. John Conyers speaks at the An Economic Bill of Rights for the 21st Century conference at Columbia University on October 18, introduced by Chuck Bell of the National Jobs for All Coalition

Morning sessions from the conference

Afternoon sessions from the conference

Webcast sponsored by ISOC-NY

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

FRI, OCT 18 >> An Economic Bill of Rights for the 21st Century - Conference in New York

Download Event Flyer 

An Economic Bill of Rights for the 21st Century 

A conference celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Columbia University Seminar on Full Employment, Social Welfare & Equity

Friday, October 18, 2013, 9:00 AM—4:30 PM (breakfast at 8:30 AM)
Columbia University Faculty House
64 Morningside Dr., Manhattan

$20 Pre-registration, $25 at Door (includes breakfast & lunch)
$10 low-income, unemployed, students

To register for this event, please visit: 


Co-sponsors:  Columbia University Seminar on Full Employment, Social Welfare & Equity; the Roosevelt Institute; The Nation, The National Jobs for All Coalition; Demos; Dollars & Sense; Workers Defense League; Modern Money Network, Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition, The Worker Institute at Cornell, ILR School

In 1944 Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed an Economic Bill of Rights whose guarantees included employment at living wages, housing, medical care, education and old age security.  This conference will consider FDR’s proposal in light of subsequent history.  Have any of those rights originally proposed been achieved?  What are their interconnections?  How does FDR’s Bill of Rights need to be updated for the 21st Century?  How can we secure these rights in the present political climate?

Speakers:  The Honorable John Conyers (D-MI); David Woolner, Senior Fellow and Resident Hyde Park Historian, The Roosevelt Institute; Philip Harvey, Prof. of Law and Economics, Rutgers University; William Quigley, Prof. of Law, Loyola University; Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg, Professor Emerita of Social Policy, Adelphi University; Sheila D. Collins, Professor Emerita of Political Science, William Paterson University; Helen Lachs Ginsburg, Professor Emerita of Economics, Brooklyn College, CUNY; Dean Baker, Co-Director Center for Economic and Policy Research; William Darity, Jr. , Professor of Public Policy, African and African-American Studies and Economics, Duke University; Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editor and Publisher, The Nation; Gary Dorrien, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary; ; Michael Lighty, Director of Public Policy, California Nurses’ Association/National Nurses United; Chris Policano, Director of Communications, AFSCME.

Conference Welcome:  Robert Pollack, Director, Columbia University Seminars Program  Panel Chairs: June Zaccone, Assoc. Prof. Emerita of Economics, Hofstra University; Eduardo Rosario, Executive Board, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (NYC Chapter); Chuck Bell, Programs Director, Consumers Union; Logan Martinez, Outreach Coordinator, National Jobs for All Coalition   Concluding Remarks:  Peter Marcuse, Prof. Emeritus of Urban Planning, Columbia University, co-editor Cities for People, Not for Profit, and Searching for the Just City.

To view the Program for this event, visit

To register for this event, please visit:

More information?   Please email us at:  economicbillofrights [at]

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Jobs Advocates Join 50th Anniversary March for Jobs and Freedom!

Photos from 50th Anniversary March for Jobs and Freedom,
Washington, DC   8/24/13

HR 1000 Supporters on the Move!!
Marching to Lincoln Memorial 

Rep. John Conyers Speaks at Lincoln Memorial
to HR 1000 Supporters, Calls for End to Budget Sequester
and Passage of National Jobs Program

Trudy Goldberg, Chair  and Prof. Phil Harvey,
National Jobs for All Coalition

Chuck Bell, Vice Chair of National Jobs for All Coalition

Prof. Phil Harvey, Author of "Back to Work:
A Public Jobs Proposal for Economic Recovery"

Margarite Rosenthal & Chuck Bell
of National Jobs For All Coalition

Organization of United People (Washington DC) Produced
An Excellent Pro-Jobs T-Shirt and Included
a Free Jobs For All Flyer with Each Sale

Put America to Work!

Friday, July 26, 2013

8/24 >> 50th Anniversary March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Cross-posted from Labor Fightback Network

Demand Jobs and Freedom for All! March on Washington August 24!

March on Washington Flyer National Action Network National Action to Realize the Dream Join the March on Washington August 24, 2013, to demand jobs and freedom for all; defend and expand Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; respect and protect workers’ rights; and restore and expand voting rights!

Fifty years ago, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. led a great March for JOBS and FREEDOM on Washington that demanded:
“A massive federal program to train and place all unemployed workers—Negro and white—on meaningful and dignified jobs at decent wages.
“A national minimum wage act that will give all Americans a decent standard of living. (Government surveys show that anything less than $2.00 [$15.23 at May 2013 prices] an hour fails to do this.)”
Shockingly, most working people are worse off today than in the 1960s:

Employment statistics today are clearly worse. Thanks to the Great Recession, the national unemployment rate still hovers at 7.6 percent; in 1963 it was 5.7 percent. But that is only part of the picture. Part-time workers who want full-time work are on the rise. And even worse, the number of those who have completely given up hope of finding a job has increased precipitously: in 1954, 96 percent of U.S. men between 25 and 54 years old worked but today that number has dropped to 80 percent. When all these sectors of unemployed or partially employed are combined and only those men who are unemployed but want work are included, the unemployment rate jumps to 16 percent.
The 1963 March and other struggles of the 1960s by workers and unions succeeded in raising the minimum wage, along with other wages, so that in 1968, we achieved the highest minimum wage ever. Were it that high now, it would be $10.70 instead of only $7.25. The average hourly wage in the private sector reached a peak in the early 1970’s, not reached since, forty years later. Partly as a consequence of the declining strength of unions, wages have stagnated or even declined in relation to our ability to produce, with the lion’s share flowing to the very top income receivers. And most of those who have been lucky enough to find work since the Great Recession have been channeled into the low-wage sector of the job market.
MLK at the 1963 March on WashingtonBlack workers continue to be unemployed at a rate that is twice that for white workers; Hispanic workers have a rate nearly 40% higher than white, non-Hispanic workers, and both suffer wage disparities.
In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, the government instituted job programs and put millions to work. Today, President Obama has announced that it is not the government’s job to create the needed number of jobs. In fact, the Obama administration has advocated a totally inadequate plan that would provide less than two million new jobs.
Compounding these dire circumstances, social safety net programs, like food stamps and unemployment compensation, including for those suffering long-term joblessness, have been cut across the board on the national, state, and local levels and will likely be cut again, especially in light of the recent decision by the House to push through a farm bill without food stamps.
Whatever recovery there has been from the Great Recession has resulted in income gains concentrated at the top. This division in economic gains is not new. It extends and reinforces the trend toward Gilded Age inequality that has been going on for four decades. In 2010, 93 percent of all new income that was created went to the wealthiest 1 percent of the population.
The attacks on African Americans and people of color have continued unabated, as witnessed by the brutal murder of Trayvon Martin and the exoneration of his killer. This on top of the June 25 Supreme Court decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act.
It’s high time for all victims of austerity cuts, potential victims of further cuts in the near and long-term future — particularly low-income and poor people — along with communities of color, students, environmentalists and other sectors of the population reeling from the deteriorating conditions under which we live to come together to fight collectively for our rights and achieve a new wave of social progress.
We demand that the federal government create tens of millions of good paying jobs to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, protect the environment, and rehire laid-off teachers and other essential public workers.
These jobs will partially pay for themselves, because workers with decent jobs pay more in taxes and don’t need unemployment compensation or food stamps. But of course there will be some costs.  that can be paid for by more tax revenues from corporations, banks and the rich, financial transfer taxes, and ending the 12-year Afghanistan war — which would save $10 billion a month — while saving tens of billions more by avoiding further unjust wars and occupations.
Join tens of thousands of people in Washington on August 24 to commemorate the ideals of Rev. King and the 1963 March.  Renew the call for jobs, freedom, and economic justice, and work to make civil and economic rights a reality for all!

Labor Organizations Endorsing the March on Washington

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
United Steelworkers
Laborers International Union of North America
Communications Workers of America
American Federation of Government Employees
Service Employees International Union
United Food and Commercial Workers
Farm Labor Organizing Committee
American Federation of Teachers
International Association of Machinists
District 1199C, National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, AFSCME, AFL-CIO
North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor (Cleveland, Ohio)
New Jersey State Industrial Union Council
South Carolina AFL-CIO
San Francisco Labor Council
Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
A. Philip Randolph Institute
Pennsylvania Federation Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees–International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Utility Workers Union of America Local 601
AFSCME New Jersey Council 1
Communications Workers of America Local 1082
Communications Workers of America Local 1081
Communications Workers of America Local 1080
Service Employees International Union Local 668
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 819
Amalgamated Transit Union New Jersey State Council
Savannah Regional Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Rutgers University American Association of University Professors–American Federation of Teachers
Council of New Jersey State College Locals, AFT, AFL-CIO
Labor Fightback Network

If your union wishes to endorse the March on Washington, click here

Saturday, April 6, 2013

March Jobs Report Lays Bare Pain of Budgetary Sequester

(DETROIT, April 5) – This morning, the Department of Labor announced that employers in the United States increased their payrolls by individuals for the month of March – less than half of the estimates and far below the February jobs growth of 268,000. Following the release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics report, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) released this statement:

“With this unacceptable March jobs report it has become all too clear that the budgetary sequester, which arbitrarily cuts government spending by $85 billion this year alone and $1.2 trillion over the decade, has begun to hit the brakes on the country’s economic engine,” said Conyers.

“For many, the sequester seemed abstract when it went into effect a month ago. However, the disappointing number of 88,000 jobs filled or created for the month of March, on the heels of an overwhelming 268,000 increase in payrolls for the month of February, demonstrates the real pain that the sequester has just begun to inflict on our economy. And unfortunately, this is only the beginning, as more than 750,000 jobs are expected to be slashed across the country this year alone.

“For the last 37 months, the U.S. economy has had positive private sector job growth, totaling more than 6.4 million jobs. I seek to continue on this path towards full employment, but as the sequester begins to hit home it is all too apparent that these self-induced cuts are impeding economic progress. It is for this reason that last month I introduced H.R. 900, the ‘Cancel the Sequester Act of 2013.’ It is only a single line, but with one sentence Congress can repeal the part of the law that created the sequester.

“The March jobs report should be a warning sign to my colleagues of things to come. We cannot continue to hold the economy hostage with deep, across the board spending cuts when the gainful employment of working class families is on the line. I strongly advocate for the repeal of the sequester, and I urge Speaker Boehner to hold a vote on my legislation cancelling it.”


Crossposted to
Endorse HR 1000 - The Humphrey Hawkins 21st Century Employment and Training Act

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

HR 1000 Reintroduced on March 6!!

HR 1000, the Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act, was reintroduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) on March 6, 2013.  This transformative federal legislation would create a national public service jobs program to complement job creation efforts in the private and nonprofit sectors. 

Most notably, the bill "aims to provide a job to any American that seeks work, and to ultimately, create a full employment society."

HR 1000 creates a national "Full Employment and Training Trust Fund," funded by a small Financial Transactions Tax on stock, bond and derivatives transactions. This would create a major new national funding source large enough to create 2.5 to 4 million jobs in the first two years of the program. The bill would also provide much additional funding to support innovative job training programs, such as one-stop career centers, YouthBuild and Job Corps, among others.

(Previous versions of HR 1000 were introduced in 2010 and 2011 (HR 870 and HR 4277)).

For more information, read HR 1000 and the bill summary.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sign our Petition!!

Poster from the WPA Work Programs of the 1930s

Join the movement for Jobs for All by signing the petition to Congress to enact HR 1000, the Humphrey Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act, introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI).

Promote the link to the petition: >>