Ohio Congressman Tells GOP: “Stop Talking About Dr. Seuss” and “Start Working”

Noting that his Republican colleagues seem to be more interested in the fate of children’s books than workers’ rights, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) reprimanded his fellow lawmakers from across the political aisle with a fiery speech on the House floor, deriding them for having their priorities out of order.

Ryan’s rousing diatribe came about during debate on Tuesday regarding the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, a piece of pro-union legislation that passed the House mostly along party lines. The bill received 225 votes in favor of passage, with just five Republicans backing it.

Among other provisions, the bill would impose harsher civil penalties on companies that try to fire union organizers, would outlaw tactics businesses use to delay unionization, and would override so-called “right-to-work” anti-union laws that have passed in several states across the U.S.

During debate of the bill prior to its passage, several Republicans complained about what the proposal would entail, with some expressing qualms about it being too drastic a change in favor of workers. Ryan dismissed those fears, condemning them as being out of line.

“One of the earlier speakers said, ‘This is the most dramatic change in labor law in 80 years.’ And I say, thank God,” Ryan said.

“In the late ’70s, a CEO made 35 times” what a worker earned back then, Ryan noted. “Today, it’s three to 400 times the worker. And our friends on the other side [are] running around with their hair on fire.”

Becoming more animated in his delivery, Ryan spoke forcefully against GOP opposition to the bill:

Heaven forbid we pass something that’s going to help the damn workers in the United States of America. Heaven forbid we tilt the balance that has been going in the wrong direction for 50 years.

Ryan also noted that Republicans seemed to oppose every effort possible to help American workers over the past several years.

“We talk about pensions, you complain. We talk about the minimum wage increase, you complain. We talk about giving them the right to organize, you complain,” he said. “But if we were passing a tax cut here, you’d all be getting in line to vote yes for it.”

“Now stop talking about Dr. Seuss and start working with us on behalf of the American workers,” Ryan added.

The last line Ryan delivered before yielding the floor referenced a decision earlier this month by the company that runs the estate of children’s author Dr. Seuss (real name Theodor Geisel) to halt the printing of his books that contained racist caricatures. The decision only affects six of Seuss’s books out of many dozens that are still in print, and effectively discontinues the publication of titles that include pictures portraying Asian and African people in negative and hateful ways.

Several right-wing commentators, as well as many Republican lawmakers, have seized upon the move as proof of a supposed “cancel culture” being pushed by the left, even though the decision was made by the company itself without outside pressure. Some right-wing voices have even falsely suggested that President Joe Biden played a role in the cancelation of the six titles.

In one example of the manufactured outrage by Republicans regarding the Dr. Seuss books, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) recently shared a video of himself declaring that he still likes the author, while reading “Green Eggs and Ham” — a book that is not among the six by Geisel that the company managing his titles has decided to stop printing.

The speech from Ryan has been viewed and shared tens of thousands of times on social media. Its popularity is perhaps twofold, as those who are sharing or liking it are likely promoting the expansion of workers’ rights while also attempting to highlight the absurdity of right-wing lawmakers trying to create controversy where none appears to actually exist.

Despite most in the U.S. holding positive views of unions, the PRO Act faces difficult odds of passage in the Senate, where a Republican filibuster of the proposed bill will likely halt it from becoming law.