Whether you were at The Ohio State University’s Glenn College of Public Affairs or watched it on Facebook Friday morning, the simple yet strong plan unveiled by Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown to restore the value of work in America became the team of horses that will pull his reelection campaign forward over the next two years.
Senator Brown’s plan to rescue workers comes amid reports that the nation’s Republican-controlled congress is focused on rolling back protections for workers, consumers, and the environment. In the past week, the House of Representatives has before it three bills that further advance a deregulatory agenda on these specific topics, the Economic Policy Institute reports.
His message about helping workers earn more money, work in better and safer conditions and have stable benefits comes none too early, as Ohio considers right-to-work legislation thaNewt would likely contribute to one or more of his goals going unfulfilled. An alert from UAW Local 402 is calling on its members to call lawmakers and prepare for a fight over a new attempt to make Ohio a “right to work” state for private employees, The Springfield Sun reports.
The bill’s sponsor, GOP state Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr. from Cincinnati, said Ohio has experienced a big decline in manufacturing jobs in the past 15 years, and his legislation would make Ohio more competitive with neighboring states. Brinkman’s bill would make membership and dues optional for private companies in Ohio with a union workforce. Jason Barlow, president of the UAW Local 402, said he and others are working for higher wages, better benefits and a safer workplace. “Management did not offer to give those to us. We (the union) had to fight for everything we have. This bill is a direct attack on working men and women in the workplace,” he said.
Speaking a little later than first planned due to weather conditions in Ohio’s capital city, Sen. Brown’s address outlined a broad legislative agenda for a Republican-controlled congress to contemplate in the era of President Donald J. Trump. Mr. Brown’s plan, called “Working Too Hard For Too Little: A Plan for Restoring the Value of Work in America,” can be read on Brown’s website.
“Hard work doesn’t pay off like it used to. Wages and benefits have declined or stagnated for American workers for decades. People earn less, people can’t save for retirement, and people feel less stable – all while working harder and producing more than ever before. We need to update our economic policies, our retirement policies, and our labor laws to reflect today’s reality,” Brown said to his audience, in person and on-line.
According to information provided by the senator’s staff, Sen. Brown has spent more than a year studying the challenges facing workers in Ohio and across the country. What the two-term senator found is both surprising and not surprising: People are working harder and producing more than ever before, but workers have not shared in the wealth they’ve helped create. Their reward across all sectors, regions and income levels is to earn less, which compounds their efforts to save for retirement, producing feelings of instability and insecurity in their jobs.
As the senator put it in simple language everyone can understand, “hard work isn’t paying off like it should.” As one of the Senate’s most vocal champions of workers, Sen. Brown’s plan offers a number of ways hard work can and should pay off.
1. Raising workers’ wages and benefits
2. Giving workers more power in the workplace
3. Make it possible for more workers to save for retirement
4. Encourage more companies to invest in their workforces
Mr. Brown made it clear about which workers he’s talking about. “When we talk about work, we talk to everyone. When we restore value to work, we will make our country a better place for every single American. That’s what this plan aims to do.”
Brown was joined Friday by workers whose stories helped shape his proposal. Becky Morgan of Tipp City wrote to Brown’s office to share her story of losing her retirement when the company she worked for declared bankruptcy. Also with Sen. Brown today were labor organizations, community groups, and Glenn College students and faculty.
EPI shows why Sen. Brown’s call to arms for workers is needed with news that the U.S. House has before it a vote on additional Congressional Review Act resolutions to block existing rules, including an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation that enables OSHA to hold employers accountable for failing to keep accurate records of workplace injuries and illnesses.
Sen. Brown made a strong speech for why workers’ wages and benefits should keep pace with their increasing levels of productivity. It’s hard to imagine Ohio Gov. John Kasich, any of Ohio’s Republican delegation or, for that matter, any Republican in Congress to have given an address that championed workers across the board while calling for a “Corporate Freeloaders” tax on corporations that pay their workers so little that to make ends meet they have to resort to taxpayer financed help, including Medicaid or food stamps, among other social safety net programs that burden the public while giving corporations a free ride.
Mr. Brown rained down on the decades long parade of Republican talking points that supply side economics, or trickle-down economics as he called it, is how to create jobs, when it’s been shown to be such a failure to do what it’s been claimed to do. Treating workers like line items in a budget to be minimized, Sen. Brown called for updating labor laws to give workers a shot at earning more when they work overtime, and investing in retirement plans since they have more disposable income to do after meeting their regular obligations to keep a roof over their head, food on the table, and a stable life environment that was once called the middle-class.
As Sen. Brown gears up for what will be another blood and costly reelection campaign against his likely GOP challenger, State Treasurer Josh Mandel, delivering a message to workers in small town and rural Ohio counties that speaks to their hopes and dreams, much like Donald Trump promised them the moon last year, will go a long way toward cementing Brown as the champion of the working class.
Brown’s plan follows a very disappointing year last year, when Republicans won control of the White House and Congress after most pundits had predicted a win by Hillary Clinton. In the Senate, where Sen. Brown finds himself in the minority after pundits thought a rising tide for Mrs. Clinton would also sweep enough Democrats into the upper chamber to regain control of it, Mr. Brown will find it to his advantage to make the economic argument that Hillary Clinton failed to make, as Ohio went for Trump by eight percentage points or about 446,741 votes.
With Ohio slipping in job creation, among other areas, Gov. John Kasich has failed to produce enough jobs for Ohioans that want one, and with predictions by the term-limited governor of a coming recession, Sherrod Brown finds himself atop the Democratic totem pole in the Buckeye State until a Democratic candidate for governor emerges. Even then, Sen. Brown will still have to fend for himself since he won’t have a Democratic White House or a Democratic president like Barack Obama to campaign for him in Ohio.