Rep. Tim Ryan from Ohio has proven a reliable source of good-natured fun for us. When every white guy who wasn't Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg ran for president 2,000 years ago in 2019, we called them the Other Tim Ryans, but original Tim Ryan impressed us Tuesday with a barnstorming speech on the House floor.

Ryan was making a pitch for the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which the New York Times describes "as the most significant expansion of labor rights since the New Deal." The bill would shred union-undermining "right to work" laws in 27 states, so of course Republicans hate it.

[The Protecting the Right to Organize Act] would amend decades-old labor law to give workers seeking to form a union new protections from retribution or firing, grant government regulators additional means to punish employers who violate workers' rights and outlaw mandatory meetings that employers often rely on to try to quash an organizing drive

The House was set to pass the PRO Act and send it to the Senate, where it will shrivel and die because the GOP has a permanent veto over any Democratic legislation, thanks to the filibuster or, as we call it, the Democrat Face Puncher 9000. Democrats will have an easier time finding Josh Hawley's integrity than 10 Republican votes for a pro-union bill.

Ryan is realistic enough to know what the GOP has in store for this necessary bill, so he expressed his frustration while channeling Sherrod Brown.


One of the earlier speakers said, “This is the most dramatic change in labor law in 80 years," and I say, "Thank God." In the late '70s, a CEO made 35 times the worker. Now it's three or four hundred times the worker.

That's true and also a bunch of bullshit. It wasn't CEOs who stared down COVID-19 so we could have two-ply toilet paper safely delivered to our homes during a pandemic.

And our friends on the other side are running around with their hair on fire. Heaven forbid we pass something that's gonna help the damn workers in the United States of America. Heaven forbid we tilt the balance that has been going in the wrong direction for 50 years. We talk about pensions, you complain. We talk about the minimum wage increase, you complain. We talk about giving them the right to organize, you complain. But if we were passing a tax cut here, you'd all be getting in line to vote yes for it.

Republicans have shamelessly rebranded themselves as people who care about the (white) working class, but they only cater to their resentments. They don't give a damn about their economic security. This basic truth dovetails nicely with Ryan's parting shot.

Now stop talking about Dr. Seuss and start working with us on behalf of the American workers.

The Dr. Seuss reference isn't just a dig at the GOP's messed-up priorities. Dr. Seuss is a key part of the GOP strategy. It's all culture war hocus-pocus so "white working class voters" will complain about "cancel culture" while not noticing that the GOP has canceled their futures. It's also a maddeningly effective strategy. Although President Joe Biden won union households nationwide, he lost them to the failed real estate developer in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

The loss of union household support in Ohio cost Biden the state and doesn't have election analysts bullish about Democrats' chances of flipping the Senate seat Rob Portman's vacating in 2022. Democrats want to believe it's the economy, stupid, and that elevating labor rights in Biden's agenda can win back those Trump union voters. They just need to shake them out of the Dr. Seuss delusion. Tim Ryan seems up for trying.

[New York Times]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."

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