Worker’s Issues are Wyoming Issues

FCDP Chair, Bruce Palmer’s op-ed response to Sunday’s Casper Star Tribune editorial.

All I can think is that the Casper Star-Tribune editorial board must not have read Joan Barron’s article in their paper about the Wyoming Democratic Party’s state central committee meeting last weekend before writing their Sunday editorial. If they had (or if they were there, as I was) they would know that while the minimum wage was discussed, the initiative that the party agreed to tackle was the repeal of House Bill 79. H.B. 79 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. Strangely entitled the “Collection of Unpaid Wages” Act, it does exactly the opposite as it takes a benefit that employees have earned and puts it in the pocket of their employer. Not a single Democrat in the Wyoming House and Senate voted for H.B. 79, while nearly every Republican did so.

And therein lies one of the many differences between the two parties that the editors of the Casper Star-Tribune choose not to see. Democrats can be counted on to look out for the rights of those who work. The Republicans, not so much.

The editorial board is absolutely right when they talk about the staggering dominance of the Republican Party here in Wyoming—79 out of 90 legislators, all five of the statewide elected officials and all three of our representatives in Washington are Republicans. And we can see what voting for Republicans is getting our working families here in our communities of Wyoming. Year after year Wyoming ranks dead last in gender wage equality, while consistently coming in near the top in workplace fatalities. Republicans are very effective at getting elected. Doing the work of the people is proving to be more of a challenge for them.

Wyoming, last in the nation in gender wage equality.

Wyoming, last in the nation in gender wage equality.

We did discuss the minimum wage during our committee meeting as well as other issues of importance to the workingwomen and men of Wyoming. The minimum wage was discussed in the context of gender wage inequality and the fact that the minimum wage for those in tipped positions has not been increased in decades.

We discussed the minimum wage in the context that Republicans in the last legislative session were pushing “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.

We discussed minimum wage in the context of the Federal minimum wage being just $7.25 per hour. Data indicates that if the federal minimum simply kept pace with inflation it would now be $10.56 per hour. Some have argued that if it were tied to productivity gains it would be significantly higher still. Importantly, and unknown by most, many of Wyoming’s workers are in positions not covered by the Federal minimum wage and so these worker’s Wyoming-legislated minimum wage is $5.15 per hour, the lowest in the nation. The Casper Star- Tribune editorial board indicates that they don’t believe that the minimum wage is a Wyoming issue. Really?

Wyoming’s Democratic Party thinks that workers issues are Wyoming issues—workplace safety, minimum wage, gender wage equality, preventing coercive work environments where employers can take what a person has earned, whether it is tips or accrued vacation—Democrats stand up for and vote for those who do the work.

Bruce Palmer is the Chair of the Fremont County Democratic Party. News and views of the FCDP can be found online at: TurnFremontBlue.com