AFL-CIO adopts Workers’ Bill of Rights – a collective bargaining agreement for America

‘Working people in America will no longer accept economic rules written of, by and for the wealthiest few,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in introducing a resolution at the AFL-CIO Convention for a Workers’ Bill of Rights. “We can do better. We must do better.” – Labor Tribune photo

‘The rules of our economy have been written so corporations win and working people lose’



Delegates to the 2017 AFL-CIO Convention in St. Louis, taking a firm stand for workers and against an economy structured for the wealthiest few, unanimously approved the establishment of a Workers’ Bill of Rights.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

“The rules of our economy have been written so corporations win and working people lose. This assault on our rights and freedoms is bad for our families, our communities and our democracy.

“When the rules have been rigged against us for so long… when we keep working harder for less… when corporations and politicians continue to chip away at our health care and retirement… when forming a union feels like climbing a mountain… it can be hard to know the next right step,” Trumka said. 

“I think it’s time to get back to basics. Working people need a Bill of Rights… A collective bargaining agreement for America… a platform for our members to rally around. It will give prospective members a clear statement of our values. And it will provide political candidates and elected officials with a litmus test for our support.

“We simply refuse to accept the reality of struggling to make ends meet in the richest country in the world at its richest point in history. And so, we demand rights that ensure we are able, through our work, to lead better lives.”


AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler said the Workers’ Bill of Rights is an idea whose time has come.

“We recently conducted a survey of working people and three quarters of respondents said they should have a Bill of Rights. And for good reason,” Shuler said.

“Employers and politicians are conspiring to hold down wages,” she said. “Outdated labor laws are making it harder and harder to form a union. Young people are graduating college with mountains of debt, if they can afford to go at all. Women are still being paid less than men for doing the same job.

“Of the people we surveyed, a third do not have health insurance,” Shuler said. “Three in four do not have a pension. We can and must do better.”


Tefere Gebre, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President, outlined the components of the Workers’ Bill of Rights:

• A good job with fair wages: Everyone who wants to work has the right to a good job where we earn a fair return on our work and receive a wage that allows us to support ourselves and our families. 

• Quality health care regardless of income, job or a pre-existing condition.

• A safe job free from harassment and violence.

• Paid time off and flexible, predictable scheduling to spend time with family or care for ourselves or a loved one.

• Freedom from discrimination in hiring, firing and promotions.

• Retirement with dignity and financial security.

• Education: public K-12, higher education and career training that advances our knowledge and skills without leaving us in debt.

• Freedom to join together with our co-workers for better wages and working conditions, whether we are in a union or not.

• A Voice in Democracy to freely exercise our democratic voice through voting and civic participation so that we can make sure our government stands up for this Workers’ Bill of Rights.


“Working people in America will no longer accept economic rules written of, by and for the wealthiest few,” Trumka said. “We can do better. We must do better.

“Working people demand the right to come home safely at the end of the day,” he said.

“We demand the right to be paid enough to support ourselves and our families.

“We demand the right to quality health care, paid time off to spend with family, a schedule that is flexible and fair, and protection from discrimination.

“Finally, after decades of hard work, we demand the right to retire with dignity and security.

“We demand a comprehensive Workers’ Bill of Rights. Standing together in unions and working with all who share our values, we will make this Bill of Rights a reality for all working people.”


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