Labor Day is more than just a last hurrah of summer, a day for picnics and barbeques for many families. It’s also an important time for us to reflect on the labor movement’s proud history in Ohio, and to honor the workers who paved the way for the worker protections we too often take for granted.
These workers built our strong middle class, and built our country. They laid down the railroad tracks that move people and products across the country. They worked on shop floors, innovating as they labored. They toiled in mines, digging the coal that would power our trains and factories.
It’s that drive and dedication that built our great country. And it’s because of these workers’ efforts – their organizing, their sacrifice – that today more Americans enjoy a decent wage, pensions, and retirement security.
But their work – our work – is not finished.
This Labor Day, we need to honor this proud labor legacy with more than just words—we must honor it with action. Too many workers still fall through the cracks, and too many lack important workplace protections.
After decades of attacks on our workers and on the labor movement, too many Ohio workers are left on their own. Fifty years ago, one in three Americans was a member of a union. Today that number is one in ten. That is why we need to step up to the plate, and pass laws and rules to make sure that, for all workers – whether or not they belong to a union – hard work pays off.
Overtime rules have eroded significantly. Most Americans, including nearly two million Ohioans, have no paid sick or family leave. The minimum wage hasn’t been raised in nearly a decade. Ohio women are paid roughly 83 percent of what their male counterparts earn.
This is why we still have work to do.
I’ve called on the President to finalize new overtime rules that would expand overtime to pay to an estimated 160,000 Ohioans. I’m working to pass the Healthy Families Act, which would allow workers to earn up to seven days a year in paid sick leave. I’m supporting the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would crack down on wage discrimination, and make sure equal pay means equal work. And I helped introduce the Raise the Wage Act, to increase the minimum wage to $12 by 2020.
American history is a history of struggle for working people – fighting for representation and fair wages, for access to good paying jobs and the dignity every human being deserves. Today, our struggle continues.
This Labor Day, remember the generations of workers who have come before, and remember that it is up to us to continue their legacy. If you are up before the sun to get to your job that supports your family, this day is for you. If you take three different buses to get to work, so you can put food on the table, this day is for you. If you come home with aching feet, but know it’s all worth it when you see your children’s smiling faces, this day is for you.
To the working men and women of Ohio, I wish you a happy Labor Day.
Sherrod Brown (D-OH) represents Ohio in the U.S. Senate.