"I am happy that trade issues are getting so much attention in this election," said steelworker Ed Rico in Cleveland this week. "It is a critical issue for places like Lorain, like Cleveland or any place else where we make things. It is on us, however, to be sure we separate fact from fiction when it comes to candidates’ claims and promises. And on trade matters, it is clear who stands with us and who has been part of the problem."
Rico joined U.S. Senate candidate Ted Strickland and other working people from Cleveland to discuss the record of Donald Trump and Republicans in town for their national convention when it comes to working people and issues important to us. Here's his story, in his own words:
My name is Ed Rico and I live in nearby Elyria, Ohio. I worked for more than 40 years as a union steelworker at Republic Steel in Lorain, Ohio. It was a job I loved and a job that helped me raise a family. It was my American dream. Over those 40 years, the steel I made went into building our infrastructure, our cars, our appliances and countless other products that we all use every day. I am proud to say that I made that steel, and I am proud to say that I made it in Ohio.
On March 31 this year, my plant closed. Along with about 200 of my co-workers, I lost my job that day and was forced into an unanticipated, early retirement. After having all those years on the job, I was in a much better situation than my younger co-workers, many of whom remain unemployed.
Management of the plant cited unfairly traded steel imports as a major contributing factor to my mill’s closing. This is a story far too many people in Northeast Ohio are familiar with. Our trade deficits in this country have made it very hard for many industries to hang on here in the rust belt. Unfair foreign trade deals have brought this on and continue to make economic catastrophe for working people. Given this reality, we really need to take a close look at candidates’ record on trade, not just their campaign rhetoric.
Rob Portman’s position on trade is…complicated, to put it delicately. It is welcome news that Portman now is claiming to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but it really has been a strange journey for him. Just about a year ago, Portman voted to fast track the TPP, removing his own ability to change the agreement when it comes back to the Senate for approval. He now laments that the agreement lacks adequate remedies for currency manipulation by countries that are party to the deal. And Portman astonishingly refused to read the agreement before voting to fast track it.
Portman’s vote to fast track the TPP, and now his election year conversion to oppose it, has left a lot of us scratching our heads—especially those of us who’ve lost their job because of similar unfair trade deals.
Donald Trump has made trade a top issue for his campaign, but I am afraid his rhetoric begs a lot of questions. There is a real believability factor when it comes to Trump’s declared position on TPP when you compare it to his business record. How can a guy who profited from unfair trade deals be a credible opponent? Trump’s record of outsourcing discredits his phony opposition to bad trade deals and therefore he can’t be trusted with being the enforcer-in-chief when it comes to fair trade.
I believe Hillary Clinton and Ted Strickland are both dedicated to protecting jobs here by demanding fair terms on any trade deal that is approved. Clinton has vowed her opposition to the TPP, and Strickland remains a real champion for manufacturing jobs in Ohio—just as he always has been. And that’s why they have my vote in this election.