April 27, 2021

Brown Hosts Workers from Ohio and across the Country for Committee’s First-Ever Worker Listening Session

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, hosted workers from Ohio and across the country for the committee’s first-ever listening session, to share their stories about how the economy is set up to ensure Wall Street and big corporations profit – at everyone else’s expense. The workers, including those from retail and warehousing jobs, distribution centers, banks, and other sectors, detailed how the Wall Street system affects their wages, their job opportunities, and their workplaces. Brown was joined by the workers in calling for changes in our economic policies to make their hard work pay off.

“All of the workers we heard from today shared powerful stories about how hard they work, and how corporations and our economic policies prevent their hard work from paying off,” said Brown. “The Wall Street system encourages corporations to chase larger and larger profits, at the expense of everyone else. For those who shared their stories today, and for every worker across the country – we will work to change that. When we respect the dignity of work, hard work pays off for everyone, whether they punch a clock or swipe a badge, work for tips or salary, or are raising kids or taking care of an aging parent.”

In addition to today’s listening session, Chairman Brown will hold a Committee hearing on Thursday, April 29th, titled “The Dignity of Work.” The hearing will be live streamed at banking.senate.gov.

Excerpts from each workers’ statements, as prepared for delivery today, are included below. Production-quality video is linked.

Shawn Williams is from Jefferson, Ohio and works at a distribution center for Save a Lot which, despite a successful vote to organize, has held up the establishment of a union for years.

“We rarely go a few weeks without an injury. Some of which have been minor pulled muscles strain and sprains to more severe, hernias, broken bones. And on the most extreme a young man in his 20s nearly losing his leg being run over by a forklift. Largely because of the insane pace we work at. We have suggested that slowing the pace even just a little bit would improve safety and could save money, to which we were told ‘Injuries don’t cost the company much money.’ Admitting that worker safety is less important than their profit margin,” said Shawn.
“We all grow up being taught, if you work hard you can make a good living. We have done everything right. We have done it all by the book. The security of a fair contract is all we want in exchange,” 
said Shawn.
“‘Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.’ Fredrick Douglass,”
Shawn concluded. “Unions are the voice of that demand.”

Desiree Jackson is a former Wells Fargo call center worker who now works for a unionized workforce at Beneficial State Bank in California.

“During my time at Wells Fargo, I was under constant pressure to meet deadlines,” said Desiree. She went on, “We had to complete all of our assigned work each day or we would get a talking to by our manager. They pressured us to work as many hours as were necessary to complete our daily assigned tasks, like making sure every account was opened. They didn’t care how many hours we worked because the bank misclassified us by turning us into salaried employees so they didn’t have to pay us overtime.”

She continued, “After a couple more years, I started to miss hitting my metric goals because I had developed carpal tunnel injuries in my arms. I took some workers compensation leave. But while I was on workers comp leave, Wells Fargo filled my position and told me that I did not have a job to come back to. After all my years of service helping customers, and helping the bank reach record profits, they just tossed me aside. I was not in a position to fight this powerful bank alone. I was so angry.”

Chase Copridge is a full-time gig worker who does not have employee benefits because he is classified as an independent contractor. 

“These corporations have swindled their workers and tricked Wall Street into thinking that one day they’ll be profitable. And that may be so, but it will be by stepping on the backs of the workers of color and  immigrants that make up a majority of their workforce. They’ve encouraged state officials to steer us away from applying for unemployment insurance; denied us sick leave if we get COVID; and now, with Prop 22, made it all but impossible for us to join with other workers and collectively bargain,” Chase said.

“We deserve better. And every bank and investor pouring money into these companies should know what’s really going on,” he concluded.

Pamela Garrison is a low-wage worker from West Virginia who is active in the Poor People’s Campaign.

“We’re living in poverty and working hard every day. ‘Working poor’ should not be two words that go together. We’re working as hard as we can but we’re getting pauper pay, we’re getting pauper wages,” Pamela said. “And we’re seeing billionaires, we’re seeing corporations make billions every quarter in profit but then when we ask for a minimum wage raise, we’re told ‘no that will raise the cost of stuff, oh that’ll cost jobs.’”

Melody Crawford is an unemployed worker who lost her job when her Michigan company was bought out by a private equity firm that decided to eliminate all of its 3,100 employees without benefits during the pandemic.

Melody detailed what happened once her employer of 13 years, Art Van, was bought by TH Lee, a private equity firm. “We were fired with no notice at all. And we all lost our health insurance. This was probably the most terrifying part for me, personally. I have underlying conditions that require medicines, and I could no longer afford to buy them. I had just bought a new car and then couldn’t make payments,” she said.

Melody goes on, “The destruction of this once thriving company blew a giant hole through my entire family, my community, and the state of Michigan. It was really one of the worst things that has ever happened to me, and I wouldn’t wish this on anybody. Working for a company for 13 years, and just - tossed out overnight, into the pandemic, while TH Lee executives pocketed millions on the deal.”