Cresco is Brown’s first stop of Dignity of Work Tour
Wed, 02/06/2019 - 1:37pm admin
Sara Stromseth-Troy TPD Staff
CRESCO - Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) met with Iowa residents Thursday, Jan. 31 at the Cresco Area Chamber of Commerce on the first stop of his ‘Dignity of Work’ listening tour.
Brown was elected to the Senate in 2006. He is considering a run for President but has not yet announced his candidacy.
He was joined by his wife, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Connie Schultz, who introduced her husband to the crowd of citizens and media.
Senator Brown described why he chose Cresco, Iowa as the first stop on his Dignity of Work listening tour:
“We chose in part to come here, which is my first stop in Iowa and the first stop on my Dignity of Work Tour, because Connie and I grew up in communities (in Ohio) that so often get ignored. I know that Wall Street ignores communities like this and so, too often, do state and national government.
“Democrats simply aren’t talking to working class families. It’s almost the view that you either talk to the progressive base to excite them or you talk to working class families. You have to do both. You don’t win in Iowa, in Howard County if you don’t talk to workers. Howard County had the biggest win from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016 because Democrats aren’t talking to workers.”
He continued, “It’s not just the middle class, but the broad spectrum of people that work hard and simply don’t get a break these days. This administration looks like a retreat of Wall Street executives. They have betrayed workers.”
Brown then took questions from the audience:
Laura Wright of Decorah said, “I have a medical condition where I take medication that costs over $6,000 per month. Without health insurance, all of my salary goes toward that medication. If I don’t take that medication, I don’t walk. If I don’t walk, I don’t work. Healthcare is tied fundamentally to that work and the dignity that comes from that work. What are you going to do so that my salary doesn’t get emptied out to ensure that I have healthcare that covers it?”
Senator Brown responded, “First, you stop the Trump administration’s attacks on the Affordable Care Act, to undermine what Obamacare is, to undermine everything from marketing to open season enrollment. You have insurance now but you need more people in it. You need young, healthy people. The Trump administration’s goal is to keep young, healthy people out of Obamacare.
“Second thing you do is you expand Medicare to the age of 50. I’ve been working on this for years. When I first ran for Congress, I would pay my own insurance until Congress passed universal coverage. I did that for years and years. Connie and I married, and we are now together on the Obamacare Exchange with millions of others.
“Dr. Martin Luther King said that work is never menial if it pays adequate wages. Adequate wages means decent benefits, decent retirement. When I talk to people who are anxious about their healthcare, you have to be an activist just to protect you and others like you, that’s not a society you should live in.”
Laura Hubka of Riceville and Chairwoman of the Howard County Democrats said, “In Iowa, they are de-funding our education and taking away things from our kids and making those things impossible to give them. How would you go about promoting community colleges and vocational work for people who may not want to attend a four-year college?
Senator Brown said, “Dignity of Work says people who work hard and want to get ahead shouldn’t be saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of student debt. I talk to people who put off having children in part of fear of expensive childcare but also put off marriage and buying homes because the average student debt it $35,000.
“When Connie went to Kent State University, she worked while she was there but she didn’t have those mountains of debt and had more opportunities when she finished college. Because of this view, where state governments continue to cut taxes on the rich and underfund public education, if you go to UNI or Iowa State or the University of Iowa, state government is not paying enough of the cost, so kids get those burdens before they even start.”
Britt Rhodes of Decorah said, “I graduated from Luther College in 1996, the same year that the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act was signed. I say that partly because in it there is no mention of dignity. Over the last 20 years as a social worker, I have seen how that plays out in the lives of families, and I wonder how we are going to reconcile that value of work, personal responsibility and also bring attention back to family well-being and ensure people who are working hard are also able to support their families?”
Senator Brown said, “That is a good question and the answer is pretty elusive so far, but when we think of the Dr. King quote that it is not menial work if it pays a decent wage and then you look at our policies, our trade policies and the Trump tax bill where 70 percent of the benefits go to the richest one percent, it’s just this continued devaluation of work.
“In Cleveland, someone came up to me who had been a newspaper reporter. It paid very little and he now manages a gas station. He said he was really tired of people saying he was unskilled, as if that dismisses him as a human being. He said, ‘Whatever skills I have, I create wealth for my employer.’
“Cleveland Clinic just raised its wages to $15 for all of its workers. I called the CEO and said thank you for that, but what are you doing for your food service workers, your custodial workers and your security guards, knowing those are all outsourced jobs? Until we shine a light on what they are doing, we should restore the overtime rule.”
Carl Hakkenstad of Decorah said, “I think it’s fair to say you appeal to a lot of blue collar Democrats. A lot of them, if they don’t fear immigrants or hate them, feel uneasy (about them) economically or culturally. How would you like to change the narrative about immigration?”
Senator Brown: “You start by undoing these policies that divide and tear children from their families, which is as unconscionable as anything this country has ever done. We did a rally at a company owned by a man who came to this country when he was 15 years old. He has built this company and provided jobs for a whole lot of people who look like most of us in this room. He had the American dream and he has the ambition and the hard work ethic that those immigrants have.
“Our son-in-law and father of two of our grandchildren was a refugee from El Salvador. His mother was a journalist; she came here because of political violence. She has done what so many immigrants do when they come to this country: She never quite learned English to do her profession and has been a nanny for 35 years. When immigrants come here, it makes our communities richer. It helps bring a vitality to a community.”
Becky Olafsen of rural Winneshiek County commented, “Iowans and Americans need the truth. Too many people in Iowa, especially in rural Iowa, haven’t been getting to the truth, because they are listening to outlets and speeches that tell them things that aren’t the truth. We have had incredible candidates in the Democratic Party who have lost because of lies and misrepresentation. It’s just not the truth. We need the truth and thank you for bringing some for the truth to Iowa about work and other things.”
Kurt Meyer said, “I’d like to hear your thoughts about the balance between a healthy environment, environmental protection and the dignity of work. Now that I have a granddaughter and will soon have two, I am concerned that we do the right things for the environment and that we keep people working and keep dignity of work.”
Senator Brown said, “This administration is clearly in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry as is the entire Republican Party; a party that a decade ago recognized that climate change in a large part is human-induced.
“That dramatically changed because of the Koch Brothers and the billionaires that fund their party. The moral bankruptcy of that position with the fossil fuel industry will not play well in history for the people that supported that.”
Questions from the Media
Following his question-and-answer session with the public, Brown took questions from the media outlets assembled. In addition to the Cresco Times Plain Dealer, media present for the event included Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, Washington Post, Associated Press, Des Moines Register and The Plain Dealer (Cleveland).
Brown discussed his bona fides as a progressive and how that also includes talking with workers:
“My whole career I’ve been a progressive. I always will be. I’m going to talk to workers. If we don’t respect and talk to workers as a party, we lose elections and it’s not just about winning elections, it’s governing as somebody who really does underscore the dignity of work and what it means.”
Brown also addressed Howard County, Iowa’s unique standing as the only county in the United States to swing from President Obama in 2012 and President Trump in 2016 in equal voting percentages and what he thought these voters might have sought in seemingly disparate candidates from opposite parties:
“The two states (Ohio and Iowa) have a lot more in common than four letters, three vowels, lots of corn and square-looking states. People call both states ‘flyover country,’ which is pretty insulting. I think one thing they have in common a lot of people voted for Trump because they thought their kids would have a worse material life than they did and would not do as well with job prospects.
“They are increasingly saying that Trump betrayed them and that he doesn’t care about workers, whether it’s a Donaldson worker in Howard County or a UAW General Motors worker in Lordstown. Many that voted for him are sensing that betrayal.”
A follow-up question addressed the issue that some voters continue to place their hope in Trump, believing he is trying his best. The questioner asked Brown if he thought that sense of hope is misplaced.
Brown responded, “People who vote for a candidate for president overwhelmingly vote for their party preference. Most voters who are Republicans are going to stay with him. I think that hope that they placed in him that he was going to bring industry back and make farmers more prosperous, I think people are beginning to see that it isn’t true. It’s only been two years, I think well into the third year and by the fourth year they will see he betrayed them,” he said.
Continuing his The Dignity of Work Tour, Brown went to Clear Lake, Perry and Waterloo on Friday. On Saturday, Feb. 2, he was in Dubuque and Clinton.