Rep. Tim Ryan’s PRO Act speech goes viral: “Help the damn workers”
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, during his fiery pro-worker speech in Congress on March 9, 2021. | via Twitter

I’d been hoping some Democrat would cut loose on Republican union-busters for claiming the GOP is the “working class” party. Rep. Tim Ryan just came through.

“Now stop talking about Dr. Seuss and start working with us on behalf of the American workers,” the Ohioan challenged Republicans on the House floor Tuesday.

Ryan was sticking up for the PRO Act, which would expand the rights of workers to unionize. The Democratic-majority House passed the bill on a near straight-party vote, 225-206. Five Republicans supported the legislation; one Democrat voted no. (Rep. John Yarmuth, the lone Democrat in Kentucky’s congressional delegation, voted yes. Republican Reps. Andy Barr, James Comer, Brett Guthrie, Thomas Massie, and Hal Rogers were among the no votes.)

“The PRO Act would protect and empower workers to exercise our freedom to organize and bargain,” NPR’s Don Gonyea quoted AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “It’s a game changer. If you really want to correct inequality in this country—wages and wealth inequality, opportunity, and inequality of power—passing the PRO Act is absolutely essential to doing that.”

Ryan’s speech earned high marks from Bill Londrigan, Kentucky State AFL-CIO president. “It’s about time somebody started really standing up for the working people of America and for their right to organize and bargain collectively,” he said.

Londrigan praised the PRO Act for “balancing the scales between corporations and those that work for a living.” Ryan, he added, “definitely showed the kind of energy and passion that we need to start making sure that the workers of America know who’s on their side.”

The bill’s fate is doubtful in the 50-50 Senate because the Democrats would need 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster. (Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul hate the PRO Act.)

Anyway, Ryan’s verbal broadside is all over the internet, notably on Twitter. As of Wednesday morning, it had been viewed more than 2 million times, according to Newsweek.

“Heaven forbid we pass something that’s gonna help the damn workers in the United States of America,” began Ryan, who represents one of the bluest blue-collar districts in the country.

He reloaded and fired anew:

“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’re passing a tax cut here, you all get in line to vote yes for it.”

Ryan’s the real deal. He’s anti-RTW and has sided with unions on legislation 97% of the time, according to the AFL-CIO. (Buckeye State Rep. Jim Jordan, who said the GOP is “the beer and blue jeans party” has co-sponsored a national RTW law and has voted the union position on issues 5% of the time.)

The notion that the GOP is a working-class party is so asinine it would be tempting to ignore it or laugh it off. But fingers crossed that more Democrats will join Ryan in royally rebuking Republicans.

The “Man From Missouri,” Harry Truman, it will be recalled, was famous for filleting Republicans on the stump. “Give ’em Hell, Harry!” a fan yelled during a Truman speech on the presidential campaign trail in 1948. The president smiled and replied, “I don’t give them hell. I just tell the truth about them, and they think it’s hell.”

Keep giving ‘em hell, Tim.

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.


Berry Craig
Berry Craig

Lifelong Kentuckian Berry Craig is an emeritus professor of history at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah and a freelance writer. He is a member of American Federation of Teachers Local 1360, recording secretary for the Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council, webmaster-editor for the Kentucky State AFL-CIO, and a member of the state AFL-CIO Executive Board. His ninth book on the history of his state, “Kentuckians and Pearl Harbor: Stories from the Day of Infamy,” was published by the University Press of Kentucky in November 2020.