New York, NY – A year of taking to the streets and protesting unchecked corporate greed in NYC’s Real Estate Industry has sparked renewed interest in a call President Franklin Delano Roosevelt made almost 75 years ago. 

NYC Public Advocate Tish James invokes FDR’s “2nd Bill of Rights.”

“At a time when families all throughout the State of New York, and all throughout this country are suffering — it’s really all about an Economic Bill of Rights which addresses the needs of working people in the state and in this country,” Public Advocate Tish James said last week, after backing the introduction of a new City Council resolution in support of the Building Trades’ #CountMeIn campaign. 

FDR called for a “2nd Bill of Rights” back in January, 1944 after coming to a “clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.”

“Necessitous men are not free men. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made,” President Roosevelt warned during his State of the Union message. 

Fast-forward three-quarters of a century later, and New York City’s public advocate was on the steps of City Hall warning about a sitting president who, every chance he gets, fawns over and proclaims his adoration for some of the worst dictators on the planet.

“The reason why so many individuals voted for this president is because of the challenges that they are experiencing,” James continued. “Because their felt needs are not being addressed. Because their families are struggling, and because they thought this president was going to provide them with economic opportunities — they now have buyer’s remorse. And what we need to remind them of is the great FDR who talked about an Economic Bill of Rights, and who talked about the power of labor.”

FDR’s “Second Bill of Rights” enumerated the following: 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; and the right to a good education.”

We should make sure that the people who are actually building those buildings can afford to live in our city. — Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Ben Kallos.

Trade unionists taking part in the #CountMeIn campaign insist that the so-called “open shop” model of development is a greedy “broken shop” system that exploits nonunion workers, creates a race to the bottom, and hollows out the middle class. 

“You do not have the right to get as much money as you humanely can by abusing people,”  City Council Member Jumaane Williams [D-District 45] said. “When that is happening — particularly when it’s government money — government has to step in and say no more. I understand that people are working. But you don’t have the right to race to the bottom — to provide the least salary and coverage.”

Council Member Jumaane Williams backs the #CountMeIn campaign.

The real estate kingpins behind developments like the one that initially sparked the #CountMeIn movement last fall — Hudson Yards on Manhattan’s West Side — are the beneficiaries of billions of dollars in public subsidies. With that in mind, Council Member Williams said government has the right to dictate to developers about middle class wages, benefits and job protections. 

“We have to make sure we’re counting government money as direct subsidy, and also subsidies when you’re allowed to rezone; when you’re allowed to use air rights; when you’re allowed to get density,” Council Member Williams said. “That is something that we as government are giving you. We have a right to ask for something back — and that is for wages that are livable and survivable; and that is for people who come to work on these sites to be treated like professionals that have a career — not just pegs that you use whenever you want, and then can just throw away.”

Ben Kallos, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, said, “when the city government prints money for developers by giving them unlimited air rights to build a city within a city on the waterfront, but then decides that we should’t pay people enough to live in that housing — that’s a problem. That’s unsustainable.”

“I’m here to say, anytime the city is giving a developer money, or giving them air rights, or giving them tax abatements, we should make sure that the people who are actually building those buildings can afford to live in our city,” Kallos said. “And that if they get hurt on the job, they can actually go to a doctor because they have health insurance. And after a career building these buildings, they can one day retire. That’s not much to ask — it’s the right thing to do. Especially when you’re coming to into the city with your hand out and not getting millions of dollars — but getting billions in tax-payer subsidies.”

On Tuesday, thousands of trade unionists from across the city are expected to take part in the biggest #CountMeIn rally and march at 3:30 p.m. starting at 50th Street and 6th Avenue and ending at Related Cos. Offices at 10 Columbus Circle. 


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