Ohio union families share their stories

Dan is a retired iron worker, a member of Local 17, and a former building inspector for the city of Parma, Ohio. He's spent his life working hard, raising a family, and enjoying retirement with his wife Shirlene. But Dan has watched what's been happening in Ohio and across the country in recent years—from Gov. Kasich's attacks on middle-class workers to Republican policies that helped the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the middle class. Dan's convinced that 2012 is the most important election of his lifetime—with the clearest possible choice.

"Obama, to me, he exudes fairness," says Dan. "He has compassion for people. And I almost liken this election to the game of Monopoly. Republicans want us to live on Baltic Avenue, while they want Park Place and Boardwalk. On top of that, when they pass go, they're not even willing to give us the $200. I worked hard my whole life. And the same things that I got out of life, I want for my kids and my grandkids."

Dan's worried that his grandchildren won't be able to achieve the same American Dream that he did if Mitt Romney and Republicans bring back the same policies that hurt middle-class families like Dan and and Shirlene's. That's a concern that Wendy, a member of the UAW Local 1005 who works at General Motors' Parma plant, shares, having watched her family, friends, and co-workers struggle over the past decade.

"I almost liken this election to the game of Monopoly. Republicans want us to live on Baltic Avenue, while they want Park Place and Boardwalk."

"Bush got elected, then we watched the jobs slowly go away," says Wendy. "We watched it happen. … I watched as people's livelihoods started dropping off. My mother and her sisters started retiring, and they starting stripping away things from her. It's a matter of, do I get medical? Or do I lose my house? I was scared to lose my job at one point—and I have never felt that as badly as I did then. Your eyes started to get really open when you're getting ready to lose your livelihood."

So Dan, Shirlene, and Wendy became regulars at the Parma OFA office and tried-and-true supporters of President Obama. For them, the decision to support President Obama comes down to this: He gets it. Wendy says, he "knows the problems that we're facing. I'm sure he can look in his own family and see the problems that we're facing. He is smart, but he is real. He has deep character. I can understand him and who he is. I know him—and I've never met him."

For all three, this election is really about someone else in their lives: grandkids, cousins, co-workers, spouses. Wendy says, "I'm OK. It's not about me. But my job affects eight people, and those eight people need their jobs. My husband works for Local 404. He's a mason, and I've watched how Gov. Kasich has tried to rob them of their jobs this year."

For Shirlene, "My grandchildren are the most important thing in my life. And my son has been through the same things that so many others have: Losing his house. Losing his job. And they've moved in with us a couple times. It's been a difficult life for them. The oldest is in college now and hoping to hold on for the second year.

"We've had such a good life in the country, and we look back on our life. And we're so thankful for the life we've had. And yet—we don't see that for our grandchildren. It's just not there anymore."

That's why Dan makes a daily point to talk to someone—even a stranger at the store—about the stakes in this election. He says, "If I can reach out and touch one person every day, I'm doing my job."

And that's why Shirlene says she's never missed an election and doesn't plan to start now. She tells the story of an aunt who would borrow a car every election day to drive people to the polls and take them home afterward. "That impressed me more than anything," says Shirlene, "in my choice of being a Democrat. I hope to impress my grandchildren the same way."

And that's why all three of them stood up today alongside UAW workers, Massachusetts teachers, and Democrats. They have to bring the message to their community: We can't afford to lose this election. We can't afford Romney economics. There's just too much at stake.