In weekly address, Ohio senator says Democrats are fighting for American workers

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) delivers this week's Democratic weekly address.


Hello, I’m Sherrod Brown.

First, I want to thank all the first responders, national guardsmen and woman and volunteers working tirelessly to protect and comfort those in the path of Hurricane Harvey.

Our hearts break for the families of all those who lost loved ones, including Lt. Nicholas Warren Michael Taylor of Ohio, who was on an Air Force training mission in Texas. According to news reports, Nicholas gave his life trying to bring others to safety.

To all those suffering devastating losses, please know that your fellow Americans stand behind you and we will be here for you as you recover and rebuild.

This Labor Day we honor the men and women who built this country, and who continue to power our economy today – including all those who are critical to hurricane rescue and recovery efforts.

American workers laid down the railroad tracks that move people and products across the country. They toiled in mines, digging the coal that would power our industrial revolution. They forged the steel that built our bridges and skyscrapers. They worked on shop floors, building the cars and trucks and planes that would take our country to new heights. And they built the strongest middle class – and with it, the strongest nation – the world has ever known.

This pin is a canary in a birdcage – a steelworker gave it to me, to remind me of the progress we’ve made for working people.

At the turn of the last century, workers took canaries down into the mines – if the canary stopped singing, it meant there was poisonous gas, and the workers had mere minutes to get out.

Those workers didn’t have a union strong enough or a government that cared enough to protect them.

In the 20th century, we changed that. We passed strong labor laws to protect the rights of workers, unions grew, and millions of Americans worked hard to earn their way to a better life. Our economy grew, and the wages of ordinary Americans grew along with it.

Today, it’s still American workers who power this country. But their hard work isn’t paying off the way it used to.

For far too long, our trade and tax policy has encouraged a corporate business model that shuts down factories in Toledo or Dayton, cashes in on a tax credit at the expense of working Americans, and ships production to Reynosa, Mexico or Wuhan, China, only to sell products back to the United States.

And far too many of the jobs that remain don’t pay enough in wages and benefits to compensate workers for the hours they put in.

Over the last 40 years GDP has gone up, corporate profits have gone up, executive salaries have gone up. But workers haven’t shared in the economic growth they created.

Wall Street has made billions, but the average bank teller only earns about $26,000 a year. And middle managers have seen their benefits cut.

People earn less, people can’t save for retirement, and people feel less stable – all while working harder and producing more than ever before.

This is a universal problem in this country -- whether you punch a time sheet or make a salary or earn tips. Whether you’re on payroll, a contract worker or a temp – you’re getting squeezed.

It affects workers behind desks and on factory floors and behind restaurant counters. It’s a problem in the industrial heartland and it’s a problem on the coasts.

Every last one of you is the backbone of the greatest economy in the world, yet you have less and less to show for it.

Democrats are fighting to make your hard work pay off once again.

We have proposals to raise wages and benefits, to make it easier for workers to save for retirement, to give workers more power in the workplace, and to encourage companies to invest in their greatest asset – you, the American worker.

When I was first elected to serve in the Ohio statehouse, I used to spend hours at United Steelworkers Local 169 up in Mansfield.

I talked with workers who stopped in at the hall before or after their shifts. I learned how they made steel and how they built cars. They worked hard. Most of them gladly worked six days for the overtime pay.

They owned – yes, owned – modest homes. They could move up the income ladder and build a better life for their kids at Johnny Appleseed Junior High.

Three decades later, the hopes and desires I hear from Ohioans haven’t really changed. They want the same things as those steelworkers: to be valued for the work they do, to be able to save for the future, to own a home, to take the family on a vacation once in a while, and to build better lives for their children.

What has changed is that people no longer see a path to get there through hard work – and they’re right.

We need to change the way we think about the American economy.

It’s not multinational corporations who drive our economy – it’s American workers and small businesses. We grow the economy from the middle class out. And that’s what Democrats are fighting for.

This Labor Day, let’s celebrate by recommitting ourselves to respecting and valuing hard work.

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