Another Labor Day is upon us. It is generally celebrated as the “last day of summer”, the start of the school year, and here in Wyoming, the beginning of the “only time to visit Yellowstone,” as the tourists head back to the coasts or the flatlands. But Labor Day is much more than just a mark of time. Like Memorial Day it is really time of tribute. It is a time to celebrate people who go to work everyday to make Wyoming and our country strong—construction workers, firefighters, educators, food industry workers, police, state employees, workers in oil, gas and mining and many, many more fields of endeavor.
But Labor Day is more than simply a celebration of hard work it is also a time to remember the sacrifices that have been made over the centuries to make work and workers more respected and adequately compensated. Just like a paycheck, the advances that labor has made over the years haven’t been handed to workers, they have been earned. Hard lobbying, hard negotiating and, tragically, lives lost in the pursuit of a more equitable and just America.
It would be nice to say that the advances that workers have achieved over the years are secure, but the facts belie that conclusion. On a national level unemployment remains high and Republicans will not budge on any sort of jobs bill, the minimum wage has not changed in years and adjusted for inflation is worth less than when first established decades ago, and Republican’s are fighting the Affordable Care Act, the best hope for our working poor to get adequate health insurance, tooth and nail.
Closer to home the news for workers is more aggressively negative. While Wyoming continues to lead the way in worker fatalities as our Republican dominated government dithers away with toothless voluntary measures, we remain dead last in gender wage equity with women earning 66 cents on the dollar. Republican’s neglect of on these issues often overshadows their blatant hostility to workers on many other issues.
In this past session Republican’s attempted to pass 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 responsibility to pay an appropriate wage. Even some Republican’s found this legislation an over-reach and along with every Democrat voted against it.
And then there is Enrolled Act 37, I call it the Vacation Theft Act, which despite every Democrat in the legislature opposing it, was passed by Republicans and signed by our Republican governor. EA 37 changes the definition of compensation and says that as long as there is a signed agreement on the day that you start your job, your employer is not responsible for paying you for vacation that you earned, but haven’t used, when you leave that job. This new law takes wages that employees have earned through accrued vacation and puts it in the pocket of their employer. Not cool!
The Democratic Party has long been the party of the working person and Wyoming and Fremont County Democrats are working hard to draw attention to that distinction. I am hoping that you will help us by participating in our “Walking for Workers” Weekends. Please see the information here.
In the meantime enjoy your Labor Day weekend. Make time for family and friends. Celebrate and remember those who do the work that make America great!
Bruce Palmer, Chair
Fremont County Democratic Party