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  • Writer's pictureTraci Dority-Shanklin

What If…? A Thought Experiment

When I spoke with Randy Kinder, president of the AFL-CIO Investment Trust Corporation, on The World of Multiemployer Benefit Funds, he brought up an interesting thought experiment. Randy posed a rhetorical “What If” question. His question related back to what if the color barrier had been broken 30 or 50 years prior to the Civil Rights Era. [Click HERE to listen to the full episode.]

After our conversation, I remembered Wendell Young IV, UFCW Local 1776 president, and our conversation about his “Aunt Sylvia.” Back in those days, gender discrimination was legal and written into many contracts. Women had a different pay grade. They didn’t need to work because they required less money than men because they stayed home with the children. Of course, this myth has been dispelled — thanks to the efforts of civil rights activists, labor leaders, and organized labor.

The more I ruminated on Randy’s thought experiment, I wondered what if women had dispelled this “separate-pay-for-the-same-work” myth back in the 1940’s? You know, when women went to work and men went to war during the Rosie the Riveter Era? Where would we be today? Would the pay gap be closed? Would a female CEO be the norm instead of the exception?

Green New Deal

When I was a kid, Jimmy Carter was president in 1977. I remember the energy crisis, the long gas lines, and the ridicule President Carter endured when he pushed for solar energy over fossil fuel. President Carter installed solar panels at the White House as part of his commitment. After Carter lost his reelection bid in 1980, those panels were later removed by Ronald Reagan. The story of these infamous solar panels has been immortalized in a film called, A Road Not Taken.

The cynicism in those days suggested that we shouldn’t even attempt solar because it would take 30 years or longer to become viable. I still hear some repeat this same argument in 2021. However, solar power became the least expensive form of electricity to build as of October 2020. 2010 would have been exactly 30 years since Carter left office. Imagine what a Green New Deal would look like today if Carter had been embraced instead of scorned?

So, I applied Randy’s thought experiment once more. What if Jimmy Carter had been re-elected and his push for solar became law in 1980? Could you imagine a Green New Deal in the Reagan Era? What would that Green New Deal look like in 2020? And to anyone who would complain that a Green New Deal might take too long, cost too much, or it’s just too ambitious, I say, “If not now, when?”

Perhaps if we heeded President Carter in 1977, would we even be debating a Green New Deal today?

Be Informed. Be Inspired. Be Part of the Change!

Listen to Traci’s full conversation with ITC president, Randy Kinder, on The Race Conversation: Building Diverse Partnerships, at Apple Podcasts, Buzzsprout, or right here on our website. Listen to the full podcast by clicking HERE.

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