Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor
Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown made an unusual visit to Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center Wednesday afternoon: he came to a construction site to talk to the workers.
The focus of his brief speech was on how unions are important to the U.S. in times of economic hardship. Brown told the workers, “You’ve had good wages and good health care and good pensions in large part because you take care of your pension and health care the way you do your health and welfare negotiations.
“You got a middle-class wage that you can send kids to Ohio State or Columbus State, you can buy a house, you can buy a car, you know all that, you’re going to have a decent retirement as long as we keep you working in projects like this,” he said.
The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and the Building Trades Council brought Brown to the Medical Center to speak.
Brown had a role in getting the funding for the Medical Center’s current expansion project. He brought the idea to OSU when he found out the 2010 Affordable Care Act had a provision for a $100 million grant to a hospital that met certain application standards, Brown said.
Though about nine other U.S. hospitals and universities applied, OSU’s Medical Center won the whole $100 million despite the possibility that the money would be split up among the applicants, Brown said.
“This provision was written in the health care law. We called Ohio State … We said here’s what the language is on this, let’s see what we can do. And we kind of step by step worked together to make sure, to see if Ohio State could qualify and then win the bid,” Brown said. “Ohio State actually won the contest.”
The expansion includes a centralized single tower that will house a new Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, along with a new critical care center and integrated spaces for research, education and patient care, according to the Medical Center’s website.
The expansion is projected to bring a total of 15,000 jobs to Ohio by 2014, 5,000 of which are construction jobs that have already been created, according to a press release from Brown’s office.
Some students at the Medical Center Wednesday thought Brown sent an important message by coming to the construction site.
“I think it means that he is out here willing to help out for construction workers, for Ohio State people, and that he’s willing to be here for all of us,” said Vytautas Aukstuolis, a second-year in public affairs who is also involved in Obama’s Organizing for America campaign.
Others were there with OSU’s College Democrats to show support.
“(We) just had a great opportunity to see him speak at this event and really show how he’s making sure that we’re fighting for middle-class families. We’re fighting for people who are helping to build this university as well, and so it’s great to see that he’s supporting these policies, and that’s why we’re here, to support him,” said Kyle Strickland, a fourth-year in political science and member of OSU College Democrats.
Aukstuolis said the speech brought to light information he hadn’t previously known about.
“I didn’t realize that Obamacare was able to provide $100 million to build this hospital. I think it’s something all of Ohio State can be proud of, whether they’re Republican or Democrat.” Aukstuolis said.
Some construction workers who attended were encouraged by Brown’s speech.
“They’re (the opposition) trying to do harm to the middle-class people and we need people to stand up for us,” said Doug Wiener, a union sheet metal organizer.
Niraj Antani, communications director for the OSU College Republicans, said he hadn’t heard specifically what Brown’s event would be, but was disappointed he didn’t choose to visit students during his stop at OSU.
“Sen. Sherrod Brown chose to come to the opposite side of campus and not speak to students and hear our concerns about not getting jobs after college,” he said. “I think Sen. Brown would be very wise to hear our concerns in his final months in office.”
Brown is running for re-election Nov. 6 against Republican candidate Josh Mandel. Brown mentioned in his speech that Mandel has spent $29 million in his campaign against Brown.
According to an Oct. 23 Toledo Blade report, Spending by the campaigns and outside groups aimed at getting Mandel elected has come to about $36 million, compared to $25 million on Brown’s reelection.
Mandel spoke at an event sponsored by the Undergraduate Student Government and the OSU College Republicans at the Ohio Union Wednesday evening.
An earlier version of this article stated the Josh Mandel event at the Ohio Union was sponsored by USG, however it was cosponsored by USG and the OSU College Republicans.