Sen. Sherrod Brown wants more sick leave, overtime, minimum wage hike as part of plan

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Sen. Sherrod Brown wants more sick leave, overtime, minimum wage hike as part of plan

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Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Sherrod Brown wants voters to feel that Democrats are the party of working Americans — and he’s got 77 pages aimed at showing them why.

The Ohio Democrat announced today a sweeping plan aimed at improving conditions for working Americans in a speech at the John Glenn College of Public Affairs on the campus of the Ohio State University this morning. 

The plan includes everything from increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour to giving companies a tax break when they commit to staying in the United States, hiring in the United States and giving good wages and fair benefits to their workers.

Brown is up for re-election next year. A spokeswoman for his opponent, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, said mandates such as the $15 minimum wage would be a job killer. “If anything, it will increase unemployment by pricing out entry level jobs,” said Erica Nurnberg, the Mandel spokeswoman.

“Three decades later, the hopes and desires I hear from Ohioans haven’t really changed. They want the same things as those steelworkers: to be valued for the work they do, to be able to save for the future, to own a home, to take the family on a vacation once in a while, and to build better lives for their children,” Brown said Friday.

Brown said the case for improving conditions for workers makes itself: Despite an increase in median wages and a drop in poverty in 2015, wages and benefits have declined or stagnated for U.S. workers for decades, with workers earning less each hour but doing more. Between 1973 and 2013, for example, productivity increased 74.4 percent, but hourly compensation increased only 9.2 percent.

At the same time, his report found, “work is less valuable for workers because businesses are no longer investing in their workforces as a critical component to the long-term success of their companies.” Instead, he said, companies are focused on “cost-cutting, long-term profits and leaner business models.” Employers often use alternative work arrangements to keep wages and benefits low, including through temporary workers, subcontractors and independent contractors who often receive lower wages and fewer benefits and protections.

Ohio Republican Party Chairman Jane Timken slammed Brown’s proposals Friday.

"Sherrod Brown's 77 page bill of goods isn't fooling anyone. Today's theatrics are a blatant attempt to deceive Ohio workers into accepting failed liberal policies, like an anti-worker $15 minimum wage, by sprinkling in some rhetoric resembling President Trump's," Timken said.

In an interview, Brown said the nation has “failed” workers by focusing too much on the richest people at the country at workers’ expense. He said he’s not sure how they’ll move to make the report’s goals a reality, but the goal at this point is education.

“We all think too much in immediate terms,” he said, adding he hopes his report helps policy makers step back and take a broader look at how make sure workers are valued.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF BROWN’S PLAN

His plan includes a patchwork of pro-worker initiatives, including:

*paying overtime to executive, administrative and professional workers making less than $47,476; 

* making sure workers are able to earn up to seven paid sick leave days a year; 

* establishing at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave through a national paid leave fund.

* crack down on wage theft, which can include forcing people to work off the clock; refusing to pay workers the minimum wage; denying workers overtime pay even after they work more than 40 hours a week; stealing workers’ tips.

He’d also expand access to retirement programs for part-time and low-wage workers, along with small business owners; improve retirement savings opportunities for independent contractors; and give workers a tax credit to match their retirement contributions.

Finally, he wants to require companies to reimburse taxpayers when their employees have to rely on federal assistance programs because their wages are too low and give companies a tax break when they commit to staying in the U.S., hiring in the U.S., and providing good wages and fair benefits for their workers.

        

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