Labor Party launches campaign to amend the Constitution to guarantee everyone a job at a living wage
April 1997

On April 18th the Labor Party is launching a campaign to amend the U.S. constitution to guarantee everyone a job at a living wage. The door-to-door, person by person petition campaign is an effort to launch a national debate about layoffs and plant closures, declining wages and joblessness, culminating in a national priority and constitutional guarantee that everyone who can work will be able to get a job. The proposed amendment simply states: "Every person shall have the right to a job and to receive a living wage for their work."

To get people warmed up on this debate, the Labor Party Press printed the following dialogue between a Labor Party 28th Amendment petitioner and an unsuspecting passerby:

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 has 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 violate? I think it's a fundamental violation of my rights when a corporation takes my job away just because they feel like it. In a democracy, one of the most fundamental rights you can have is a 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 didlose 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?

Seven months.

Does her new job pay as well as the bakery?

Well, no, she's at Wal-mart now.

See, that's what's been happening all over the country. The Labor Department says that 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.

But that's impossible. I mean, a lot of businesses would have to shut down, because 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 big government programs.

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. And 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 government program to me.

Maybe. But don't you think that the money government does spend should got to making sure everyone who wants work gets it? Unemployment itself costs 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 sounds kind of crazy to me. We've 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 GI's a living wage to go to any school they wanted, and get about $12,000 (in today's dollars) above tuition to live on. You know, that's a lot of money.

Yeah ...

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 back for every dollar t spend on the GI bill.

Hmm. I heard some people were already working on passing local and state laws 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. Big business has been able to keep the minimum wage so low all these years by keeping everyone afraid of losing their jobs. They always argue that if the wage group, 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 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.

Why don't you just try to get Congress to pass a law or something?

Congress came close to promising everyone a job back in 1946 and again with the Humphrey Hawkins Full Employment Act of 1978. Those laws 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 made those laws real.

But why a Constitutional Amendment?

The constitution is our basic document of law in the country. It took amendments to give us rights like the abolition of slavery and women's right to vote. And once an amendment is passed, Congress has to find ways to carry it out.

So ... now you wanna sign this petition?

For local info call 378-5655. Join the Labor Party! P.O. Box 53117, Washington, D.C. 20009. $20/year. (202) 234-5190.

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