Forging a "New Normal"

Mark Dimondstein

July 1, 2020

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(This article first appeared in the July/August 2020 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

The super-rich never miss their opportunities in times of crises. From early March through April, the total wealth of billionaires in the United States boomed, increasing by $308 billion with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos personally accumulating an extra $25 billion from the pandemic!

For the rest of us, the last few months have been hard. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives. It has deeply affected our health and safety, our workplaces, the well-being of our families, coworkers and communities, and the way we interact with each other. Its economic impact on the working people of the world has been devastating. In the U.S., over 45 million people are newly unemployed. Sixty million people have lost health insurance coverage. The pandemic’s economic toll may cause the USPS to run out of money, jeopardizing our jobs, retirements and our mission to serve the people.

We all yearn to get back to “normal” – taking that planned vacation; hanging out with neighbors and family; working without worry about COVID; seeing kids back in the classrooms; shopping; hugging our grandkids; and attending weddings.

But before rushing back to the “old normal” let’s take stock of a system that has failed most working people. Galloping income inequality in the U.S. has resulted in just three billionaires accumulating the same wealth as the bottom 50% of the entire country, some 160 million people! The minimum wage remains a poverty-level $7.25 per hour. Millions of people are forced to choose between medicine and food. Many are forced to work even when sick. Climate change threatens life on earth. Corporate union busting results in a unionization rate of 10 percent. “Free Trade” agreements have destroyed manufacturing jobs. College education is financially out of reach. Child care expenses for working families eat up whole weekly paychecks. The country’s infrastructure of dams, Let’s make sure this tragic crisis is not used to further enrich the wealthy at the expense of working people. Instead let it be an opportunity to build a bett er and more just society for the “99%". bridges, and roads is crumbling while endless wars suck up trillions of tax dollars. The government has failed the people in the pandemic. Police forces are militarized. People of color, particularly African-Americans, are harassed and murdered based on the color of their skin, often by those sworn to “serve and protect.” And the two main political parties are dominated by Wall Street, corporate money and the interests of the top 1 percent.

If we conclude that the system has indeed failed us, we can either accept this state of affairs, or we can work together to build a new world. Let’s “Imagine” (as the John Lennon song says) a “new normal” where all workers have living wages and a union, healthcare is a human right, and all have paid sick leave and decent vacations. A country where elder care is based on dignity, education takes precedence over prisons, Black Lives Matter, and our water and air are clean.

Let’s make sure this tragic crisis is not used to further enrich the wealthy at the expense of working people. Instead let it be an opportunity to build a better and more just society for the “99%.” We should be encouraged that many essential workers, even without unions, have stood up to protect their health and safety on the job. We should be encouraged that protests for racial justice and equality still fill our streets. We should be encouraged that our history is replete with positive change, labor and civil rights alike, won through struggle. We should be encouraged that the people overwhelmingly support saving the public Postal Service.

Let’s not just “imagine” a “new normal.” Taking inspiration from the words of our labor anthem “Solidarity Forever,” let’s unite with working folks from all walks of life and win our future of “justice for all”:

In Our Hands is Placed a Power

Greater than their hoarded gold

Greater than the might of armies magnified a thousand-fold,

We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old

For the Union makes us strong!

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