As I’ve traveled across the country, it’s clear that we have come a long way since the Wall Street crash of 2008, when millions of Americans lost their jobs, homes, and life savings. Thanks to President Obama’s leadership, America is creating jobs again — and has for a record 70 months in a row.
Yet we still have urgent work to do to build on that legacy and protect it from Republican attacks — especially when it comes to America’s middle class and the working people who, too often, have been shut out of the recovery.
That’s why today I’m proposing a “21st Century Worker’s Bill of Rights” to restore fairness to the economy and give working families back their right to achieve the American Dream.
My bill of rights is a compact between our government and American workers that will ensure rising and livable wages; provide equal pay for equal work and the ability to balance work and family; give every American access to affordable health care and the option of debt-free college; expand Social Security so that every person can retire with dignity; and put an end to the days of fast-tracking bad trade deals.
No one who works for a living should be living paycheck-to-paycheck or struggling to scrape by. Yet today, 70 percent of Americans are working harder, but making less than they did twelve years ago. That’s holding back too many families from joining the ranks of our middle class — and hurting small and local businesses that rely on middle class customers to succeed and grow.
Up until the Reagan years, the minimum wage was enough to keep a couple above the poverty line. Today, they’d be living in poverty. As President, I will fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, however and wherever we can. I will fully implement new federal rules so millions more workers receive overtime pay for overtime work. And I will strongly support the right to full-time work — embracing policies that give workers more control and predictability over their schedules, and help part-time workers who want to take on more hours.
Strong labor unions built America’s middle class — once the biggest and strongest in the world. But today, they are facing increasingly vicious attacks, including a Supreme Court case brought by right-wing billionaires to gut public employee unions. I expanded collective bargaining rights as Governor, and as President I will be a vocal champion of labor law reform: to make it easier to form unions by modernizing the organizing process, and create tougher penalties for employers who violate the law and stand in the way of democracy in their workplace.
Childcare costs more than public university tuition in a majority of states — and only 12 percent of American workers have access to paid family leave. When women succeed in the workplace, America succeeds. So I will fight to dramatically expand childcare tax credits, so no family has to pay more than 10 percent of their income on safe, quality childcare. And I proudly support the FAMILY Act to give all workers — male and female, married and single, gay and straight — 12 weeks of paid family leave.
Because of reckless behavior on Wall Street and failed trickle-down economic policies, Americans can no longer rely on pensions when they retire. With wages stuck in the mud, the vast majority cannot even afford to save for retirement: today, nearly one in three Americans has no retirement savings at all. I have committed to expand Social Security benefits — not cut them or merely “enhance them” — to provide a foundation for a more secure retirement to all those who have worked hard to achieve it.
Fifty years ago, the average GM employee could pay for a year of a son or daughter’s college tuition on just two weeks wages. Today, we are saddling our graduating kids and their families with more than $1.3 trillion in loan debt. I have a plan to give every student in America the opportunity to go to college debt-free, within five years — and to give every child a quality education so they can graduate from high school ready for college and a good-paying job.
Finally, bad trade agreements and policies have caused thousands of American factories to close and millions of American workers to lose their jobs. As president, I will oppose policies that cost America more good-paying manufacturing jobs and rig the rules even more in favor of multinational corporations. I will reject trade deals like the TPP that are written by corporate lobbyists behind closed doors, and give workers the chance to read deals before our so-called representatives in Congress are forced to vote on them.
These are the specific steps we must take so people who work hard for a living don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck or worry about providing for their families.