Download production-quality video of Senator Brown’s remarks HERE.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the Senate floor this week, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) outlined legislation to help grow Ohio’s economy and make hard work pay off for Ohio families. Brown’s remarks are in response to a Columbus Dispatch story on a recent study showing only two of the ten most common jobs in Ohio pay enough to afford a modest-two bedroom apartment.
On the floor, Brown outlined the legislation he’s introduced as part of his plan to make hard work pay off for Ohioans, including a pair of bills that would encourage companies to invest in their workers.
“We grow the economy from the middle class out,” said Brown. “And if work isn’t valued, Americans can’t earn their way to a better life for their families – no matter how hard they work. That’s what we have to change in this country.”
Brown has introduced two bills to better invest in American workers and grow wages for families, including:
- The Patriot Employers Tax Credit would reward employers who keep jobs in the United States and pay workers well – encouraging them to create even more good-paying jobs in the U.S.
- The Corporate Freeloader Fee would require corporations that pay workers so little that their workers are forced onto government assistance programs to reimburse taxpayers for the cost.
As part of his plan to restore the value of work, Brown has also introduced legislation to provide employees advanced notice of their work schedules, expand two anti-poverty tax credits that help put money back in the pockets of working Ohioans and families, provide paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave, expand overtime pay and strengthen collective bargaining rights.
Brown’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, can be found below.
We know that Americans are working harder and longer than ever before, but with less and less to show for it. Hard work just doesn’t pay off.
Workers in Ohio have known for a long time that their paychecks don’t stretch far enough – and this month, the Columbus Dispatch has reported on just how bad things are for too many Ohioans.
This Dispatch reported on a new study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio that found that just two out of the ten most common jobs in Ohio pay enough to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment.
The average renter in Ohio earns just over $13 an hour – about $2 less than the $15.25 an hour they need to rent a basic two-bedroom.
In Columbus, it’s even worse – you need to earn $17.50 per hour.
Policy Matters Ohio has also done great work shining a light on working Ohioans. Their report this spring found that last year, 6 out of the 10 most common jobs in our state paid so little that workers would need food stamps to feed a family of three.
Think about what this means for families.
These are Ohioans doing everything we’ve asked of them – they’re holding down a job, they’re getting up every day, they’re going to work.
They’re holding up their end of the bargain we’re supposed to have in this country.
But the corporations they work for don’t pay them what they’re worth.
And it’s not just the workers in these jobs who get hurt by this – it’s their families, and it’s taxpayers.
When corporations refuse to pay workers a living wage, refuse them the opportunity to save for retirement, refuse to provide decent health care – they create a drag on our economy.
Someone has to pick up the tab for these corporations’ poverty-level wages – it’s the American taxpayers.
No one working 40 hours a week should be forced onto in food stamps, housing vouchers, Medicaid, or other government aid just to stay afloat, and American taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to subsidize wages for mega-corporations.
But that’s exactly what’s happening in Ohio and around the country.
This month the Columbus Dispatch talked with a home-health aide who lives in the East Side of Columbus, Karon Taylor.
She works hard supporting her daughter and grandchildren but makes just $11 an hour – well below the more than $17 an hour you need in Columbus to be able to afford a family apartment. So Ms. Taylor relies on federally-subsidized housing.
She told the Dispatch, “I know how to budget, and I can stretch $20 really far…Wages — that’s the problem.”
She’s working hard, she’s doing her part. But she needs help to make ends meet because companies refuse to pay workers like her a living wage.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Last year I introduced a plan for what we call a Corporate Freeloader Fee.
It’s simple – if you’re a huge corporation – and I want to be clear, I’m not talking about small businesses in Ohio, I’m talking about mega-corporations.
So, if you’re a huge corporation and you choose to pay your workers so little that they are disproportionately forced onto government assistance, then you need to reimburse American taxpayers.
On the other hand, if you’re a business that does the right thing – if you pay good wages of $15 or more an hour and offer good benefits if you commit to keeping jobs in this country, you should get a tax cut.
We call it the Patriot Employer Tax Credit.
During the fight over the tax bill, I fought for those bills. I fought to reward companies that want to do right by workers and pay them enough to live on.
But we know what happened – the special interests went to work.
Instead of tax reform that will give companies real incentives to invest in American workers, we got a tax cut that’s leading to billions in stock buy-backs that benefit corporate executives.
And as if that weren’t bad enough, workers are getting squeezed on both ends.
While paychecks aren’t growing fast enough, and too many corporations pay poverty-level wages, housing is only getting more expensive.
A quarter of renters pay half their income for housing – 400,000 households in Ohio alone. We know we need to do more to preserve and grow our stock of affordable housing in this country.
Instead, this administration wants to make the problem worse, hiking rents by more than 20 percent, on average, for almost all Ohio families that receive housing assistance.
Remember Karon Taylor in Columbus, who is working hard as a home health aide and still isn’t paid enough? Average rents for Columbus families would go up by a projected 22 percent. Is that company going to pay her 22 percent more?
Housing, health care, education, gas, transportation – it’s all getting more expensive, but workers’ wages aren’t keeping up, because corporations don’t value workers.
We know one solution to this problem – giving workers a voice in their workplace.
No single worker can take on these big corporations and demand to be paid what they’re worth. That’s why we need collective bargaining.
Last September, nearly 400 security officers in Columbus got a raise, from as low as $9 an hour to a minimum of $12.45, because they signed their first union contract with SEIU Local 1.
We know that’s still below what those workers need to make in Columbus to even afford family housing, but they’re making progress because they joined together and demanded a voice in the companies they help build.
Of course, it’s not just unions – we need stronger workplace standards to make sure workers get the pay they earned, like overtime pay.
We have to go after corporations that misclassify their workers – pretending they’re independent contractors just so they can avoid paying their fair share of taxes and wages.
From housing to wages to workers’ rights, we need to change how we think about all of these issues.
It’s not multinational corporations that drive the economy – it’s workers.
Workers making minimum wage and workers paid in tips. Workers on factory floors and behind desks; workers in hospital wards and restaurant kitchens and classrooms. Workers on salary and workers punching the clock.
We grow the economy from the middle class out.
And if work isn’t valued, Americans can’t earn their way to a better life for their families – no matter how hard they work.
That’s what we have to change in this country.
Until Wall Street and corporate boardrooms respect a hard day’s work, we will continue to see the consequences.
The gap between Wall Street and Main Street will keep growing. It will be harder and harder for workers to afford housing and their other expenses. Our middle class will shrink. And our economy growth will continue to lag behind.
Let’s work together to fix that.