Weekly Democratic Address
August 31, 2018
I’m Sherrod Brown, Senator from Ohio, and don’t you dare call our state the Rust Belt.
It demeans our workers, it devalues our work.
Think about what Martin Luther King said, “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance.” He told the Local 1199 hospital workers union, “No labor is really menial unless you’re not getting adequate wages” – something that’s too often the case today.
All work has dignity. That’s what Labor Day is all about.
Each year on Labor Day, we honor the men and the women who built this country and who continue to power our economy to this day. I want to thank those workers, particularly thank the workers who aren’t able to spend today, this holiday, with families and friends at picnics and barbecues, because those workers don’t have the day off. They work hard to support their families, too often with too little pay.
American workers are our greatest asset; they are the engine behind our nation’s success for generations – whether they punch a time sheet or make a salary or earn tips; whether they work behind a desk or a restaurant counter, on a factory floor, on a construction site, or in a hospital.
Yet for too many of these workers, their hard work doesn’t pay off. Corporate profits are up. Executive salaries have gone up dramatically. Stock prices have gone up. Workers are ever more productive. But wages have barely budged. In fact, under this Administration, wages have actually declined.
These are Americans doing everything we ask of them, everything that’s been asked of them. They get up every day, they go to work, they do their jobs, they hold up their end of the bargain – the bargain we’re supposed to have in this country.
But the corporations they work for don’t pay them what they’re worth.
Wall Street rewards corporations that cut costs and Wall Street punishes companies that invest in their workforce. Too often, workers are nothing more than a line item in a budget – a cost to be minimized.
More businesses use temp workers and contractors and subcontractors. They pay lower wages, they provide less job security, fewer benefits, and almost no legal protections.
And workers get squeezed at both ends. Paychecks aren’t growing fast enough, yet workers budgets are stretched thin with the rising cost of darn near everything – housing, prescription drugs, college tuition, so much more.
We need to overhaul how we think about the American economy.
We know first of all, corporations don’t drive the economy, workers do. We grow the economy from the middle class out, not from the top down. Might be interesting to know that just this week, the FDIC announced that bank profits have continued to skyrocket, yet middle class wages have shrunk.
If work isn’t valued, Americans can’t earn their way to a better life for their families, no matter how hard they work.
Last year’s tax bill was an opportunity to reset our priorities by focusing on American workers, focusing on the businesses that invest in them. A bunch of Democrats, a bunch of us, had plans to cut taxes for millions of American workers and businesses that create jobs here in the U.S. We fought to expand the earned-income tax credit and the child tax credit that reward work to put more money directly into the pockets of working families.
We worked to cut taxes for businesses, but only those businesses that treat their workers well and keep jobs in the United States. We want to encourage them to create even more good-paying jobs in the U.S., instead of rewarding them for sending jobs overseas.
But, of course, we know what happened.
Special interests went to work, Republicans rejected the Patriot Corporation Act. The result was a GOP tax bill that, again, rewards multinational corporations that ship jobs overseas and, of course, rewarding their CEOs.
While the typical pharmacy worker or restaurant cook or cashier or janitor in Cleveland or Cincinnati or Dayton or Mansfield – while the typical worker is getting an average tax cut of just 30-something dollars a month, someone making $800,000 a year gets a $5,100 tax cut every single month.
The bill actually created a new set of incentives – get this – to reward corporations that outsource jobs. It basically says, it basically hands out a 50 percent off coupon to companies that shut down in Youngstown and move to Mexico. They pay 21 percent rate. Corporations, if you’re producing in Ohio in the United States, you move offshore, you’ll only pay 10.5 percent. It really is a 50 percent coupon off on their tax bill. Why would our government do that? Why would these special interests that run the Trump Administration and the Congress possibly do that?
This tax bill, though, is far from the only threat American workers face.
Extremist judges, from the Supreme Court on, hand down decision after decision siding with corporations, choosing corporations over workers, corporations over – over – consumers, limiting workers’ power in the workplace.
The Supreme Court consistently stands on the side of large companies – companies that outsource jobs, instead of siding with workers. And it’s getting worse.
Right now, more than a million and a half Americans live under the looming threat of drastic cuts to the pensions they earned over a lifetime of hard work.
Millions of Americans work long hours, but struggle to get by and don’t feel like anyone notices or cares – a feeling captured pretty well by something my friend Ohioan Rita Lewis said.
Rita is the widow of the teamster Butch Lewis and she had become an advocate herself fighting for the pensions workers earned.
Rita said, “It’s like we’re invisible.”
To the millions of American workers working too many hours for too little pay, let me tell you, you aren’t invisible to me, you are not invisible to Democratic officeholders in this country.
We see you. We hear you. We fight for you.
We fight for paid family leave. We fight for sick leave. We fight for overtime pay. We fight to give workers a say on the job. We fight to save America’s pensions. We fight for those small businesses that are helping in our pension system. We want to make it easy for everyone to save for retirement.
We work to encourage companies to invest in their greatest asset – you, the American worker. That’s what Democrats fight for on Labor Day. That’s what we’ll fight for tomorrow. That’s what we’ll fight for the rest of the year and next year too, every day throughout the year. Happy Labor Day to America’s great workforce – the American worker.
Thank you so much.