On Wednesday, January 30th, we decided to brave the cold temperature (almost all the events planned for that day had been cancelled) and drive out to Brunswick to attend U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown’s Dignity of Work Tour Kickoff Rally held at Supply Side USA on West 130th Street.
The title of the tour was inspired by the famous quotation from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that reads, in part, that “…whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity and it has worth..”
In the course of the tour, which many believe could be a testing ground for a possible Presidential campaign, U.S. Senator Brown will visit Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada from now until the end of March, 2019, where he will conduct sessions consisting of 10 to 50 participants to better understand the challenges facing working people including small/medium sized business owners as well as workers.
Ms. Kim Thomas, owner of Christopher Almira Studio and the Christopher Almira Academy on Larchmere Blvd. in Cleveland gave the opening remarks. Ms. Thomas said that her grandfather, who immigrated to the United States from Trinidad, inspired her to start her own business when she was only 23 years-old. She recalled how, as a child, she used to spend summers working with her grandfather at his own firm sometimes 10-15 hours a day and how the experience taught her the value of hard work and the pride and the sense of purpose/self-worth that it generates.
As for U.S. Senator Brown, Ms. Thomas upheld him as “a champion for working families” and commended him for fighting for such issues as the preservation of the Affordable Care Act and a tax cut for working families.
In the beginning of his address, U.S. Senator Brown thanked Ms. Thomas for her enthusiastic endorsement and said that he considered her grandfather’s story to be a wonderful example of how a foreign-born person can excel in the United States. Likewise, he noted that this also true in the case of Mr. Junaid Ansir, the owner of Supply Side USA as well as an immigrant from Pakistan, who he thanked for allowing this rally to take place here.
U.S. Senator Brown then focused on the “dignity of work” and emphasized that all jobs have the potential to significantly impact the lives of many; for instance the late mother of his wife, Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist Ms. Connie Schultz, was a home-care worker whose efforts touched so many people that her funeral had 800 attendees.
Speaking very dynamically,, as he did the previous week at the MLK breakfast, U.S. Senator Brown contended that the productivity of U.S. workers is high but their economic status is slipping due to governmental policies that do not work in their favor. As an example he cited the example of the shutting down of the Lordstown plant which he believed has been met with indifference by the Trump administration.
U.S. Senator Brown said that this downward trend must be reduced by continuing to fight, as he has done, for more equitable, all-inclusive strategies that “close the opportunity gap” like the earned income tax credit for working families, the children’s health insurance program (CHIP), and “fair trade” instead of “free trade” agreements.
To be sure, U.S. Senator Brown’s speech was received with great ebullience by the large number of people in attendance especially for such a cold night. When the speech concluded, Bruce Springsteen’s classic Born to Run played on the loud speakers as Senator Brown stepped off the stage to shake hands with all of us.
We were very glad that we had made the effort to venture out to Brunswick because we got to visit with such people as Mr. Richard Dana, a very well-informed and socially-conscious attorney who we stood next to for a while as we were waiting for the rally to start, and Mr. Ralph Bertonaschi, with whom we discussed the CCWA program that we both attended the week before. Other people that we knew who were there were Mr. Fareed Siddiq, Ms. Cynthia Demsey, Ms. Jan Roller, Dr. Jane Buder Shapiro, Ms. Ms. Amy Hanauer of Policy Matters Ohio, Mr. Dale Miller (Cuyahoga County Council), Mr. Dan O’Malley (Lakewood City Council), Mr. Michael Dylan Brennan (Mayor of University Heights), and Ms. Meryl Johnson (Ohio School Board).
In addition, we introduced ourselves to Mr. Ansir who told us that he knew Ms. Margaret W. Wong and asked us to say hello to her on his behalf. We also talked to one of his employees who told us that Mr. Ansir had practically no assets when he started his now-thriving business years ago and that he was a great person to work with.
Let us close by saying that U.S. Senator Brown’s wife, Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist Ms. Connie Schultz was also there and got to say a few words about the kind of guy that her husband, Sherrod, really is. Ms. Schultz recalled that her late father, a member of Local 270 who worked at CEI for 36 years, was at first reluctant to meet Sherrod, who was a U.S. Congressperson at the time, because he didn’t believe that he and Sherrod would have too much in common.
Nevertheless, her dad and Sherrod met over lunch and had a great conversation regarding such topics as pension benefits and union matters. Afterwards, Connie’s dad turned to her and said of Sherrod, “he’s me in a tie!”