QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON 28TH AMENDMENT
Hi, I'm from the Labor Party, and we thought you might want to sign this petition calling for a Constitutional Amendment guaranteeing that everyone have a job at a decent wage.
Yeah. The Labor Party is an organization made up of union members and other working people, and we think the central problem in our country is the lack of good-paying jobs. So we're calling for a Constitutional Amendment that we all be guaranteed one. Wanna sign?
Wait a minute, what do you mean, "a right"? Nobody ever said we had a right to a job.
But if your employer decided to lay you off tomorrow for no good reason, wouldn't you feel your rights had been violated? Don't you think everybody deserves a chance to provide for themselves and for their families?
Well, maybe it doesn't matter what I think. I mean, that's just not the way our system works--this country's built on competition.
Mainly, this country was built on hard work. And I think it's a fundamental violation of my rights when a corporation takes my job away just because they feel like it. I'm just saying that in a democracy, one of the most fundamental rights you can have is the right to earn a living. Don't you think that makes sense?
The deal is, if you want to make a living, you gotta make sure you have the right skills and then go out there and find a job.
But there aren't enough jobs to go around. And a lot of the new jobs that are being created pay really badly. I mean, chances are you have friends or family who've been laid off yourself.
Well, actually, my kid did lose her job when the bakery she worked at closed down last year. But she took responsibility for herself, and she found another job.
How long did it take, though?
And does her new job pay as well as the bakery?
Well, no, she's at Walmart now.
See, that's what's been happening all over the country. The Labor Department says one out of four American workers are either unemployed, involuntarily working part time, or working full time at poverty wages. That's why we're demanding that everyone be guaranteed a job at a living wage--at least $10 an hour.
[Cartoon by © Mike Konopacki]
But that's impossible. I mean, a lot of businesses would have to shut down, 'cause they can't pay those kind of wages. There's just not enough money around to pay everybody that kind of wage.
But we think there is. In fact, the rich have never been richer in this country. And corporations are seeing their profits go through the roof. The only people who are suffering are the people who work for a living--or who wish they could work for a living.
Maybe. But we don't need to spend more money on government programs. I'm not for big government.
First of all, we're not necessarily just talking about government-created jobs. If we got a Constitutional Amendment passed, it would be up to Congress to figure out how to ensure that we all had a job at a living wage. It might mean requiring companies to stop laying so many people off. It also might mean making sure people get compensated for other kinds of work they're doing--like raising children or getting an education.
It sounds like a huge new government program to me.
Maybe. But don't you think that the money government does spend should go to making sure everyone who wants work gets it? You know, a whole lot of the money we now spend on social services really stems from the basic problem of people being unemployed or having low-wage jobs. If everyone really did have a good-paying job, imagine how much less of a problem we'd have with things like homelessness, drug addiction, crime-this is a positive solution to a lot of different problems. And unemployment itself costs the public a fortune. We have to pay for unemployment insurance, food stamps, welfare... plus when someone's unemployed, they're not contributing income taxes themselves. It's expensive to keep people unemployed. Making sure that everybody who wants to work has a good-paying job would actually save our country money.
I don't know, it still sounds kind of crazy to me. I mean this country has never done anything like this before.
Well, actually, we did do something kind of like this once--the GI Bill of Rights.
Hey. My dad had that, I know about that. But that wasn't the same thing at all. That was just for veterans.
Yeah--17 million people in all. And there weren't enough jobs for all of them, just like now. So the government paid the GIs a living wage to go to any school they wanted, plus get about $12,000 dollars (in today's dollars) above tuition to live on. You know, that's a lot of money.
But the thing was, it paid off. In fact, it was probably the best investment the U.S. government ever made. When you add up how much the country gained from all the extra output those GIs produced because of their education and the extra taxes they paid, the government got about $7 dollars back for every dollar it spent on the GI bill. We think the same would be true of our guaranteed job program--it would save us money.
Hmm. I heard some people were already working on getting local and state laws passed for a living wage. Why don't you just do that?
Those are great campaigns, but what we're doing is different. We really believe that what we need is not only an increased minimum wage, but a guaranteed job for everyone. One of the ways big business has been able to keep the minimum wage so low all these years is by keeping everyone afraid of losing their job. They always argue that if the wages go up, people will lose their jobs. We have to take that argument away from them. They did manage to pass a living wage bill in Baltimore, but the the City just turned around and used welfare workers to do the jobs of city employees instead of paying the living wage they'd agreed to under the law. We have to guarantee both a living wage and a job for everybody, or else we'll all suffer.
But why are you doing this by a Constitutional Amendment? Isn't that kind of unrealistic? I mean, why don't you just try to get Congress to pass a law or something?
The problem is, Congress can usually wriggle out of upholding the laws they pass. Congress came close to promising everyone a job back in 1946, and again with the Humphrey Hawkins Full Employment Act of 1978. Those laws basically say that it's the government's aim to see that everybody has a job. But because corporations control both the political parties, Congress has never done anything to make those laws real.
But why a Constitutional Amendment?
Because the Constitution is our basic document of law in the country. It's been amended 27 times already, and that's given us rights like abolition of slavery and women's right to vote. We think the right to a job is important enough to put in the Constitution too. And once an amendment is passed, then Congress has to find ways to carry it out. Passing an amendment guaranteeing everyone a job at a living wage would force Congress to find ways to implement it. So, ... now you wanna sign this petition?
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