MANCHESTER, N.H. – Marking Labor Day in New Hampshire, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday said organized labor fought overwhelming odds and “changed society” by securing a 40-hour work week, workplace safety standards and the minimum wage. During a keynote speech to the New Hampshire AFL-CIO, Sanders laid out a bold agenda to help working families today.
“Working people and their unions fought for a more responsive democracy and built the middle class,” Sanders said in prepared remarks. “Today we can and we must follow their example. It’s time to rebuild the crumbling middle class of our country and make certain that every working person in the United States of America has a chance at a decent life.”
“At a time when almost all new income and wealth is going to the people on top while millions of Americans work longer hours for lower wages,” he said, “the time is long overdue for us to create an economy which works for the middle class and working families of this country, and not just the 1 percent.”
Today, the Democratic candidate for president said, workers in the United States must be guaranteed paid medical and family leave and paid sick time and vacation time. With real unemployment at more than 10 percent, Sanders proposed a $1 trillion program to rebuild America’s crumbling roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects and create 13 million decent-paying jobs.
With too many workers making “starvation wages,” Sanders said the $7.25 hourly federal minimum wage should be more than doubled to $15 an hour by 2020.
When many businesses are making it harder for workers to form a union, Sanders said Congress should enact the Employee Free Choice Act to let workers who want to organize join a union. When millions of manufacturing jobs have been lost to low-wage countries overseas because of job-killing trade policies, Sanders said Congress must defeat a corporate-backed proposal for a new Pacific Rim trade deal.
He also called for pay equity for women workers, tuition-free public colleges and universities funded with a tax on Wall Street speculators, a Medicare-for-all health care system and an expansion of Social Security.
At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, Sanders also said our tax system must demand that the wealthy and large corporations start paying their fair share.
“The economic reality is that while our economy today is much stronger than when President George W. Bush left office seven years ago, the middle class is continuing its 40-year decline,” Sanders said. Wages fell for 90 percent of Americans between 2009 and 2012 but rose for the top 10 percent.
“In the wealthiest country in the history of the world we can accomplish all these goals, but we can’t do it without a political revolution. We can’t do it unless millions of Americans stand up and fight back to reclaim our country from the hands of a billionaire class whose greed is destroying our nation,” Sanders said.