"I believe we cannot go on as Two Americas—one favored, the other forgotten—if we plan to stay productive, competitive and secure. I want to live in an America where we value work as well as wealth. I know that together we can build One America – a place where everyone has a fair shot at the American Dream." -- John Edwards
In America today, families are working harder to get by. Over the last 20 years, American incomes have grown apart: 40 percent of the income growth in the 1980s and 1990s went the top 1 percent. The top 300,000 individuals now make more than the bottom 150 million. Thirty-seven million Americans—including more than 9.3 million of working-age—live in poverty. The result is Two Americas, one struggling to get by and another that has everything it could want. [EPI, 2006; Saez, 2007; Census, 2006]
John Edwards believes we have to build One American Economy—where everyone has the opportunity to work hard and build a better life. He will restore respect for work to our tax code and cut taxes for working families. He will overhaul our weak labor laws to give workers a real right to organize.
- Strengthen Labor Laws: Unions made manufacturing jobs the foundation of our middle class, and they can do the same for our service economy. That's why Edwards has helped more than 20 national unions organize thousands of workers over the last few years. Union membership can be the difference between a poverty-wage job and middle-class security. Federal law promises workers the right to choose a union, but the law is poorly enforced, full of loopholes, and routinely violated by employers. Edwards supports the Employee Free Choice Act to give workers a real choice in whether to form a union, and making penalties for breaking labor laws tougher and faster, so unions can compete on a level playing field and the right to join a union means something. Edwards also supports banning the permanent replacement of strikers so unions can negotiate fairly.
- Enact Smarter Trade Policies: Trade deals need to make sense for American workers, not just corporations. Edwards will make sure any new trade agreements include strong labor and environmental standards and will vigorously enforce American workers' rights in existing agreements. He will also expand trade adjustment assistance to do much more for the workers and communities that are hurt by global competition and reform our international tax code to remove incentives for companies to move overseas.
- Make Work Pay: Edwards will increase the reward for working by raising the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2012, tripling the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for adults without children and cutting the EITC marriage penalty. In 2001, a $1 increase in the minimum wage alone would have lifted an estimated 900,000 people out of poverty. [Sawhill and Thomas, 2001]
- Protect Prevailing Wages: Edwards pledges to protect the Davis Bacon Act, which ensures that workers on federal construction projects receive the local prevailing wage. The Act prevents contractors from slashing wages in order to win federal contracts with low-ball bids. It was shocking when President Bush intervened to keep workers from earning a decent wage after Hurricane Katrina, but we must be vigilant every day against abuses.
- Help Families Save and Get Ahead: Half of American families say they are living paycheck to paycheck, and three out of 10 American workers have not been able to save a dime for their retirement. Edwards will crack down on abusive lenders by creating a new Families Savings and Credit Commission to protect families and with strong national laws against abusive and predatory credit cards, payday loans and mortgages. Edwards will create Work Bonds to help families save and invest, providing financial safety nets for hard times. Work Bonds, a new tax credit of up to $500, would help low and moderate-income, working Americans save for the future. [MetLife, 2003; Employee Benefit Research Institute, 2006]