Economic Bill of Rights
Southern Christian Leadership Conference ~ Martin Luther King

[Back in January of 1944, in a radio address to the nation, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt outlined an Economic Bill of Rights for the American people (see below). He died three months later, and it was never implemented. Twenty-four years later, the Poor Peoples Campaign organized by SCLC and Dr. King picked up FDR's theme, presenting various versions of what an Economic Bill of Rights should contain and using the concept to educate the nation and its political leaders about the nature of poverty and the measures necessary to end it.]

Not long after Dr. King's assasination on April 4, 1968, the Committee of 100 presented the following version of the Economic Bill of Rights to President Johnson and Congress:

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, architects of the Poor People's Campaign, have outlined 5 requirements of the bill of economic & social rights that will set poverty on the road to extinction:

1. A meaningful job at a living wage for every employable citizen.

2. A secure and adequate income for all who cannot find jobs or for whom employment is inappropriate.

3. Access to land as a means to income and livelihood.

4. Access to capital as a means of full participation in the economic life of America.

5. Recognition by law of the right of people affected by government programs to play a truly significant role in determining how they are designed and carried out.

On June 5th, civil rights activist Bayard Rustin published in the New York Times a version that focused on specific immediate legislative goals rather than broad principles:

Recommit to the Full Employment Act of 1946 and legislate the immediate creation of at least one million socially useful career jobs in public service;

Adopt the pending Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968;

Repeal the 90th Congress's punitive welfare restrictions in the 1967 Social Security Act;

Extend to all farm workers the right — guaranteed under the National Labor Relations Act — to organize agricultural labor unions;

Restore budget cuts for bilingual education, Head Start, summer jobs, Economic Opportunity Act, Elementary and Secondary Education Acts.


President Roosevelt's Economic Bill of Rights

Excerpts from President Roosevelt's January 11, 1944 radio message to Congress and the nation on the State of the Union:

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all — regardless of station, race, or creed. Among these are:
The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

I ask the Congress to explore the means for implementing this economic bill of rights- for it is definitely the responsibility of the Congress so to do.

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