The following op-ed piece, written by FCDP Chair, Bruce Palmer, appeared in the July 31 issue of the Riverton Ranger.
It is summer time. The kids are out of school and many family’s thoughts turn to a summer vacation. A trip to Yellowstone, a family reunion or perhaps a jaunt up the Loop Road to camp, fish and hike. Here is a suggestion. Be sure that you use all of your earned vacation while you still have it!
On July 1, Enrolled Act 37, passed by the Republican dominated legislature and Governor Matt Mead, took effect taking another shot at the rights of workers in Wyoming. This time they are after your earned vacation. While most of us were hard at work back in February, the Republican-dominated legislature was in Cheyenne quietly working to take away that most revered of American institutions—earned vacation. Nearly every Republican (including Fremont County legislators Lloyd Larsen, HD 54; David Miller, HD 55; Nathan Winters, HD 28; Eli Bebout, SD 26 and Gerald Geis, SD 20) voted to pass House Bill 79 changing the definition of compensation in the state of Wyoming to no longer include accrued, earned vacation. What this means is that when you retire or are laid off employers no longer need to pay you for the vacation time that you earned.
Not a single Democrat voted for this onerous vacation theft law because we feel that it is fundamentally unfair. If you need to take a few days off from work, but haven’t earned enough vacation time to do so you have to take the time as unpaid, right? This means that your vacation is compensation, you earn it and employers should not be allowed to take it from you. Particularly if you are being laid off. The pay-out on earned vacation can mean the difference between being able to take care of your family while you find a new job and not.
That Republicans are unsympathetic to the needs of working people is no surprise, you really only need to look at the data and the efforts that they make in the legislature. Wyoming consistently ranks dead last in gender wage equality with Wyoming women earning a mere 67 cents for every dollar paid to a man. While the national numbers are horrible with women earning just 77 cents on the dollar, Wyoming’s wage gap is criminal. At the same time Wyoming consistently ranks first in workplace fatalities. This is fundamental. No one expects a family member not to return after a day at work. The incremental, self-policing efforts implemented by the Republicans are not the answer to a problem this grave.
With 87% of our legislators being Republicans and all of our statewide offices and national offices held by Republicans it would be easy for them to improve the lot of our workers if they wanted to do so. The Republicans do not. Rather they do exactly the opposite, further eroding the protections that employees still have. In this past session in addition to their vacation-grabbing legislation the Republicans pushed “tip pooling” legislation that would have allowed employers to force employees to pool their tips reducing some employees income potential while reducing the burden on employers to pay an appropriate wage.
The Fremont County Democratic Party believes that we can do better. Working people in Wyoming aren’t asking for a handout, but they do deserve a fair and safe workplace. And they need to be rewarded with what they have earned, whether it is their earned vacation or their tips. This is the Wyoming way—honest and fair.
Wyoming Democrats will be working in the upcoming session to repeal Enrolled Act 37. You can help with this effort. This summer we will be visiting folks door-to-door and at events around the state as we gather petitions to deliver to our legislators asking that they repeal the Vacation Theft Act. We hope that you will visit with these neighbors and learn more about the people and beliefs of the Democratic Party in Fremont County. Sign the petition. More than that we hope that you will join us as we work to return balanced, two-party politics that work to the benefit all of the people of Wyoming.