A coalition of progressive lawmakers, union leaders, and social justice advocates on Thursday unveiled the "People's Charter," a political agenda intended to outline how, in the midst of overlapping public health, economic, policing, and climate crises that have devastated low-income communities of color most of all, working people can come together to transform the United States from a country that works for "the privileged and powerful few" to one that "cares for all of us."
Politico, which first reported on the proposal, characterized the People's Charter as part of a strategy to push Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to the left if he defeats President Donald Trump, calling it "the latest move from progressives as they prepare to wrangle with moderate Democrats over the scale of new government spending and programs if the party wins control of Washington."
The Working Families Party, which convened the agenda, is hosting a live launch of the platform at 8:00 pm ET. The RSVP information can be found here.
What does this incredible crew have in common? They all know defeating Trump is a doorway, not a destination.— Working Families Party (@WorkingFamilies) October 8, 2020
Join us for the live launch of a #PeoplesCharter—a new, ambitious roadmap out of our current crisis, to an America that works for all of us: https://t.co/Pd2khkyaNK pic.twitter.com/9ELyGAjG6v
The proposal states that this year's convergence of the coronavirus pandemic, worsening economic inequality, and systemic racism has revealed that "our government isn't caring for us."
While "Americans are coming together to care for each other like never before," the authors write, the dearth of public support for struggling households following rapid and generous corporate bailouts shows that a majority of legislators in Washington "care for billionaires more than they care for working people."
"It doesn't have to be this way," say dozens of progressive elected officials, candidates, and organizations pursuing economic, environmental, and racial justice.
Signatories of the charter include: members of the House Democratic "Squad" plus Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.), Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.); multiple congressional candidates such as Jamaal Bowman and Cori Bush; several state and local representatives; and groups like SEIU, Movement for Black Lives, United We Dream, the Sunrise Movement, and many others.
The vision is broken down into five pillars that seek to "heal the wounds from the pandemic, the economic depression, and a history of racism":
- Care for the Wronged
- Emergency Care
- A Good Job for Everyone Who Needs One
- Care for Each Other
- Care for the Future
The first component revolves around repairing historic injustices and ending racial inequality. To this end, the proposal calls for: respecting tribal sovereignty; eradicating restrictive zoning policies that maintain residential and school segregation by race and class; and shifting resources away from policing, carceral, and military institutions and into "schools, housing, healthcare, and jobs" so that everyone can lead a decent life.
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The second element seeks to provide medical care and economic assistance to everyone, and especially the most vulnerable members of society, throughout the duration of the crisis, which entails: free Covid-19 testing and treatment for all; an extension of expanded unemployment insurance for all regardless of immigration status; a moratorium on evictions, foreclosures, and utility shut-offs and a cancellation of rent and suspension of debt payments during the pandemic; retroactive hazard pay for essential workers; increased resources for at-home learning; and federal fiscal aid for states and cities to avoid layoffs and cuts to crucial public services.
Biden "has talked about the crisis that Roosevelt faced," and "he has talked about wanting to have a new New Deal for the 21st century. That should be the direction he goes, instead of the incrementalism of the '90s."
—Rep. Ro Khanna
Third, the proposal advocates for raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour and putting "16 million people to work immediately—upgrading our broken infrastructure, modernizing and retrofitting millions of homes and buildings, staffing schools, hospitals and health departments, protecting and restoring forest and wetlands, creating opportunities for family farmers and rural communities, and revitalizing American manufacturing."
Next, the charter calls for addressing "the deficiencies in how our government cares for us that the pandemic has revealed." To do so, signatories say, the U.S. must: ensure that every worker who wants a union can join one; eliminate for-profit health insurance and make healthcare universal and free; provide safe and affordable housing for all; guarantee universal child care as well as paid family, medical, and sick leave plus income support for parents; cancel student debt; and raise taxes on "the giant corporations who don't pay their share and the wealth of the billionaires who have gotten richer during the worst economic collapse in 90 years."
The last piece of the vision focuses on increasing the capacity of the U.S. to face "challenges we know we have to confront." The charter seeks to "protect our democracy from takeover by billionaires, corporations, war profiteers, and bigots by getting big money out of politics and ensuring that every vote counts," including by saving the Post Office and vote-by-mail.
The proposal also pushes for a foreign policy based on "cooperation and diplomacy over competition" so that humanity can effectively respond to "challenges that transcend borders, like pandemics, armed conflicts, and climate change."
In addition, the platform calls for ensuring that "our food, water, electricity, health, financial, and other systems" can withstand climate disruptions by taking immediate steps, such as: creating "public banks to make needed investments whenever private markets fail" to do so; giving "the public ownership stakes in all corporations receiving bailouts;" buying out oil and gas companies to expedite our shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy while guaranteeing the creation of green jobs and "a just transition for workers in extractive industries;" and ensuring access to clean air and water by prioritizing investments in poor and working class communities suffering most from pollution.
"People, in order to be enthusiastic about voting, need to vote for something," Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party, told Politico. "And the People's Charter provides folks with something that is outside of [Biden's] politics to vote for."
"It also sets up conditions post-election to articulate that this election was a referendum on this agenda," Mitchell added.
Khanna pointed out that Biden "has talked about the crisis that Roosevelt faced," and "he has talked about wanting to have a new New Deal for the 21st century."
"That should be the direction he goes," Khanna added, "instead of the incrementalism of the '90s."