CLEVELAND – In a speech here last week to some 500 union delegates, Ted Strickland, the Democratic senatorial candidate, stressed his deep working class roots and staunch union outlook. Strickland, a former Ohio governor, is running against the Republican incumbent, Rob Portman.
He told the audience “I want to work for people who work for a living!”
For the past 30 years, Strickland said, wages have stagnated while worker productivity has grown and the cost of living has soared.
“The wealth is not being shared by the workers who created it,” he said
“We have the greatest gap in wealth since the 1920’s. This has got to stop.”
“The future of the labor movement is at stake,” Strickland continued, denouncing Portman, for speaking at a convention organized by the right-wing billionaire Koch brothers and for co-sponsoring a federal Right-To-Work law that could destroy organized labor.
The Koch brothers and other extremist groups have poured over $40 million into TV ads attacking Strickland. The ads say he was responsible for state job loss during the 2008 national economic crisis.
The truth is that under Strickland’s guidance Ohio became the nation’s fifth fastest growing state.
The truth doesn’t seem to matter, though. The ads are taking their toll. Strickland is behind in the polls.
Actually it was Portman, Strickland charged, who, as President George W. Bush’s trade representative, championed trade agreements that caused the export of hundreds of thousands of Ohio manufacturing jobs. Portman also opposed the Obama Administration’s rescue of the auto industry, which saved manufacturing jobs in nearly every county in Ohio.
“I will fight against bad trade deals that benefit trans-national corporations at the expense of working families,” Strickland pledged. The union delegates stood and cheered.
Describing the extreme difficulties he faced when he tried to live on the minimum wage for one week, Strickland called for better wages generally and the need for equal pay for women for equal work, a measure Portman voted against five times.
People like Portman, Strickland said, “have been pampered all their lives. They live in a bubble and have no idea what life is like for working people.”
He told the story of his 53-year old niece, a cement mason, who drives an hour and a half to her job in Kentucky, where she works ten hour days, six days a week.
She told him, “Ted, on Sunday I don’t even get out of bed. That’s how tired I am.”
Strickland concluded by saying, “Portman wants to raise the retirement age before workers can get Social Security and Medicare. I’m sick and tired of people like Portman with baby-soft hands, who never worked a day in their lives, demanding that people like my niece work longer and harder.”