One of my most important jobs as your senator is listening to the Ohioans I represent. I’ve spent the past several weeks hosting roundtables across our state — I recently hosted my 300th Ohio roundtable. I talked with manufacturing workers in Cleveland and autoworkers in Toledo. I heard from local leaders about their bus system in Canton and their transportation needs in Akron. I listened to the stories of mine workers who are fighting for their pensions and health care in Steubenville. And I will continue the conversation in Cincinnati and Dayton in the coming weeks, and across Ohio throughout the year.
The best ideas don’t come out of Washington — they come out of these conversations with Ohioans.
In Toledo and Cleveland, I hosted roundtables with workers to talk about trade and hear your priorities for renegotiating NAFTA. I’ve always stood up to presidents of both parties to fight for better trade deals for Ohio, and today is no different. I’m going to hold NAFTA renegotiation to the same standard I’ve always used for every trade deal, no matter who was in the White House: does it put Ohio workers first? Over and over at these roundtables, that’s what I heard from workers and from labor leaders. They want a trade policy that will stop the job losses, and will crack down on unfair competition.
Of course, we must do more than just stop job losses — we need to create new jobs, and we have the opportunity to do just that by investing in a serious infrastructure plan. Too many of our roads, bridges, and railways have fallen into disrepair. Last month, the American Society for Civil Engineer’s 2017 report card gave the U.S. a dismal D+ grade for our infrastructure.
But this problem is also an opportunity — we have a chance to put Ohioans to work across our state. We can create jobs repaving and repairing our streets, rebuilding bridges, eliminating lead from older homes, upgrading our water and public transit systems, and building broadband networks across Ohio. From Canton to Akron to Youngstown to Columbus, I’ve hosted roundtables and events to hear from Ohio communities what your most pressing infrastructure needs are.
Creating and supporting good jobs is among the most important things we can do for Ohio — but along with that, we must also support workers when they retire. Right now, Washington is failing thousands of Ohio coal miners who are on the verge of losing the health care and retirement they’ve earned over a lifetime of hard work.
I heard from those miners and their families in Steubenville. I talked with them, and heard their stories — stories of years of backbreaking, dangerous work, but work that had dignity. They put in their time to earn better lives for their families, and they deserve the full health care and pensions they were promised.
I will fight like hell for those miners — and for all the Ohio workers I meet across our great state. I’m working to hear your concerns and your ideas, and turn those ideas into plans that will create good-paying jobs and support Ohio communities.
The writer is a U.S. senator from Ohio.