I proudly wear suits made by union workers ten miles from my house in Cleveland, and on the lapel of those suits, I wear a pin depicting a canary in a birdcage.
It was given to me two decades ago by a Lorain steelworker at a Workers Memorial Day rally. I wear the canary instead of the official Senate pin because it represents all of us.
It represents the role of government to support the middle class, and those who aspire to the middle class.
It represents the progress we have made – and the society we continue to fight for every day.
In the early days of the 20th century coal miners took a canary down into the mines with them to warn them of poisonous gases. Those workers didn’t have a union strong enough or a government that cared enough to protect them.
Throughout the 20th century, we changed that. We passed worker safety laws and overtime pay. We banned child labor. We passed clean air and safe drinking water laws. We enacted Social Security and Medicare, and workers’ rights and women’s rights and civil rights.
But progress didn’t happen on its own. It happened because people like you stood up and demanded their government work for them. It was citizens and workers, in union halls and church basements. It was civil rights activists and child advocates who took on powerful special interests and changed this country for the better.
When we see a White House that looks like a retreat for Wall Street executives, we know that our fight is far from over. We have so much left to do to raise wages, lower healthcare costs and make sure everyone who works hard can retire with the dignity that they have earned.
That’s what we fight for every day.