Our working class heroes deserve financial stability

I grew up a “paper mill kid” in Rothschild. My Mom and Dad both worked in the mill. We lived in the community built by Mr. D.C. Everest. I saw first hand how great jobs with good health and retirement benefits can raise families out of poverty. But life wasn’t always so easy.

Before my mother got a job at the mill she did “piece work” in jobs that paid very little. I remember what it was like to go to bed with a toothache because my family had no money for dentists or doctors.

My mother was always proud of her working class background. She’d tell my brother and me how she soldered wires to batteries for our soldier’s radios in Vietnam. I remember her losing sleep, worrying about whether she did work correctly because the “piecework” environment limited the time she had to work on each battery. She told us that our soldiers needed reliable communications when they went into battle. The quality of her work was important to her.

Looking back, I think of her as a “Rosie the Riveter,” an American worker, determined to do the best job she could. But, if she hadn’t gotten that job at the mill she wouldn’t have had a decent retirement.

Today I see my neighbor across the street, retired from the mill and earning a decent retirement, but I won’t see the same retirement security for myself.  Even more discouraging, I don’t think my child will either. That’s not right.  Not in the middle of our great Midwest, in one of the greatest countries in the world.

So, what’s changed? Why is it so hard for our families and neighbors to earn a good living; to earn wages and benefits that allow them to protect themselves and their families, put a roof over their heads, feed themselves, and ensure they, and their loved ones, have the health care, education, and financial security to enjoy their senior years? What has happened to our working class heros?