Thousands rally in Ohio for solution to pension crisis

Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The house. Food on the table. Survival.

Those are some of the ways workers and retirees who demonstrated in Ohio’s capital Thursday described the pension payments they are fighting to protect.

“It’s everything, mostly, because you worked all of them years,” said Duane Ross, 61, of Cadiz, who spent 30 years in the mines.

Ross was among thousands of unionized coal miners, iron workers, teamsters, bakers, tobacco workers, millers and others who descended on the Ohio Statehouse to rally ahead of a congressional field hearing in Columbus. They brandished signs saying “Save Our Pensions” and wore T-shirts that reminded politicians, “We Are Everywhere.”

“We’re not asking for a handout from the government. We’re asking for a loan,” said retiree Al Hall, 78, who rode in overnight by bus from Illinois. “They bailed out all of the other companies. They should bail us out, too.”

Ohio’s two U.S. senators — Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman — will chair Friday’s hearing of the House and Senate Joint Select Committee on Pensions. Brown championed creation of the committee and calls the fifth public meeting in Ohio perhaps its most important to date.

“What Washington doesn’t always understand is that these folks sat at the negotiating table; they gave up wages over the last several decades today so that they’d have retirement security in the future,” Brown said in a weekly call with reporters Wednesday.

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