By Bernie Sanders
Let me take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a very happy May Day.
The concept behind May Day is extremely profound. It is the understanding that real power lies in solidarity, and that when working people in our country and around the world come together, there is nothing that can stop us in the struggle for justice. It is also a day in which we recommit ourselves to take on the incredible greed of the corporate elite and the exploitation and misery they create.
On this May Day 2020, I wanted to give you an overview of what working people are going through in this country and throughout the world and where we need to go from here.
In America, even before the pandemic, we had more wealth and income inequality than any major country on earth.
While the 3 wealthiest people in America owned more wealth than the bottom 50 percent, nearly 20 percent of our children lived in poverty.
While the top one percent owned more wealth than the bottom 92 percent, more than half of our workers were living paycheck to paycheck.
While nearly half of all new income was going to the top one percent and CEOs were making over 300 times as much as the average worker, over half a million Americans were sleeping out on the streets or in homeless shelters on any given night.
While 87 million Americans were uninsured or underinsured, the health care industry made $100 billion in profits.
And let’s be clear: The issue of income and wealth inequality is not just an American issue. It is a global issue.
Last year, Oxfam reported that the richest one percent of the world’s population owned more than twice as much wealth as the bottom half of humanity. Meanwhile, nearly half of the global population was trying to survive on less than $5.50 a day and 820 million were going hungry.
And, I might add, all of that was taking place before the horrific coronavirus pandemic swept America and the world and created an economic meltdown.
In other words, since the pandemic, a bad situation for the working class has turned into a nightmare. Meanwhile, the wealthiest people in this country and throughout the world keep getting richer and richer.
Over the past six weeks, while over 30 million Americans lost their jobs and many small businesses have gone bankrupt, Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon and the wealthiest person in the world, increased his wealth by over $40 billion.
While workers at Walmart continue to make poverty wages and are putting their lives at risk, the Walton family, the wealthiest family in America, has seen their wealth go up by more than $30 billion — just since March 12th.
Workers all over this country are losing their jobs, they are losing their health care, they are going hungry and cannot pay the rent. Globally, the economic disaster resulting from this pandemic could push more than half a billion people into poverty.
Neither the United States or the international community can sustain itself when so few have so much, while so many have so little. If this crisis has taught us anything, it is that we are all in this together and must create a world that reflects that reality.
The need to create an economy and a government that works for all of us has never been clearer. Now, more than ever, we need an economic bill of rights similar to what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt outlined in his State of the Union Address in 1944.
What does that mean?
It means that everyone in America who wants to work should be entitled to a good-paying job with decent benefits. How much better shape would Americans be in today if we had a federal jobs guarantee program that provided a living wage job to everyone who needed one?
It means that everyone in America should be entitled to health care as a human right through a Medicare for All, single-payer health care system. This crisis has highlighted the absurdity and cruelty of our dysfunctional health care system that ties health insurance to employment. Losing your job should never mean losing your health care.
It means guaranteeing decent and affordable housing for all, and eliminating homelessness. Before the pandemic, 18 million families in America were paying over half of their limited incomes on rent. Today, it has gotten worse. No American should be evicted from their home because they can’t afford to pay for housing. Nobody in the richest country in the world should be sleeping out on the streets.
It means the right to a secure retirement by expanding Social Security and protecting pensions. Before the pandemic, half of Americans aged 55 and older had no retirement savings. We have got to make sure that every senior citizen can retire with dignity and every person with a disability can live with the security they need.
It means that everyone in America should be entitled to a complete education — from child care through college. Essential workers should not have to worry about leaving their kids at home alone because they can’t afford child care. Young adults should not have to go deeply into debt for the “crime” of getting a college degree.
On this May Day 2020, let us keep our eyes on the prize. Yes. If we stand together in solidarity — Black, white, Latino, Native American and Asian American — we can create a nation of economic, social, racial and environmental justice. Yes. If we stand together in solidarity, we can stop spending trillions on weapons of mass destruction, and create a world in which all people live in peace and dignity.
The struggle continues.
Bernie Sanders (born September 8, 1941) has served as the junior United States Senator from Vermont since 2007 and as U.S. Representative for the state’s at-large congressional district from 1991 to 2007. Bernie ran for president in 2015-2016 and again in 2019-2020.
This letter was sent on May 1.