Americans are working longer and harder than ever before, with less and less to show for it. Over the last 40 years, GDP has gone up, corporate profits have gone up, and executive salaries have gone up — all because of the productivity of American workers.
But hard work doesn’t pay off like it used to.
Despite working harder and producing more, wages and benefits have declined or stagnated for American workers. People earn less, people can’t save for retirement, and people feel less stable — all while working harder than ever before.
Last month, at the John Glenn School at OSU, I laid out a plan to restore the value of work. This plan is not about pining for the past. It’s about updating our economic policies, our retirement policies, and our labor laws to reflect today’s reality. We need to raise wages and benefits, make it easier for more workers to save for retirement, give workers more power in the workplace, and encourage companies to invest in their workforce.
This month, I introduced two pieces of legislation that begin to turn parts of that plan into reality.
My first bill, the Healthy Families Act would allow workers to earn up to seven paid sick days a year to care for a family member, and to address personal medical needs. Similarly, the Family Act would create an insurance plan that provides workers up to 12 weeks of time off from work to tend to family and medical crises. During those 12 weeks, workers would be able to earn up to 66 percent of their income, capped at $1,000 per month.
These are two important first steps we can take to invest in our workforce, and ensure that hard work is rewarded.
I’m also hopeful that we can work together in a bipartisan way on the Banking Committee on these issues — particularly on making it easier for more workers to save for retirement, something I’ve worked on with the Republican Chairman, Senator Crapo. Last week Senator Crapo and I held a bipartisan hearing looking for ways we can work together to grow the economy — and that means for everyone.
Nearly a decade after the financial crisis, Wall Street is once again making record profits. But the wealthy have pocketed almost all of the gains. By contrast, in recent years, half of all workers in this country saw their wages decline or stagnate. Trading paper among a few large financial companies, or making the wealthiest one percent of Americans even wealthier does not grow our economy.
We can’t build a strong economy without a strong middle class, and I will continue to focus my efforts on making hard work pay off once again for American workers.
The writer is a U.S. senator from Ohio.