Column: Honoring Ohio workers on Labor Day

On Labor Day, we honored the American men and women who built this country.

It was American workers who 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 shop floors, building the cars, trucks, and planes that would take our country to new heights.

They built the strongest middle class — and with it, the strongest nation — the world has ever known.

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 and executive salaries have gone up. But workers aren’t sharing in the economic growth they created.

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

That’s true for all workers, whether you punch a time sheet, make a salary or earn tips. No matter if you’re on payroll, a contract worker or a temp, you’re getting squeezed. It affects workers behind desks, factory floors and behind restaurant counters.

It’s time American workers get the benefits they’ve earned. That means raising wages, making it easier to save for retirement, and cracking down on companies sending jobs overseas or paying poverty-level wages here at home.

In July, I introduced a bill to make sure all workers get advance notice of their schedules to protect workers from last-minute changes with no advanced warning. Too many workers, particularly in service jobs, live at the mercy of unpredictable schedules. And I’m fighting for the overtime pay that 134,000 Ohioans were promised last year. It’s simple: if you work extra hours, you should earn extra pay. But for too many workers, that’s no longer the case.

Every last worker is the backbone of the greatest economy in the world. We need to encourage companies to invest in their greatest asset — the American worker.

This Labor Day, let’s remember the workers who’ve built this country into what it is today and get back to making hard work pay off once again.

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Sherrod Brown is a U.S. Senator, representing Ohio. You may contact him at his office in Cleveland, 801 W. Superior Ave., Suite 1400, Cleveland, OH 44113. You may call his office at 216-522-7272 or 1-888-896-6446.