The Wyoming Democratic Party staff is unionizing as a part of the IBEW Local 415 union.

Workers handed in their union cards Saturday to Joe Barbuto, the chair of the party, and he voluntarily recognized the union.

“A big part of it is walking the walk,” said Lindsey Hanlon, the deputy communications director and a union member. “It seems appropriate that the Democratic Party is also unionized so we’re showing support not just with our words, but with our actions,” she continued.

The union consists of the four members on salary who do not have control over hiring and firing: the communications director, the deputy communications director, the administrative director and the data director.

“As a Democrat, party leader, and union member myself, I’m incredibly glad our staff has taken the steps to organize and offer my full support as they move forward,” Barbuto said in a statement. He is a member of the American Federation of Musicians.

Unionization of state Democratic parties is a semi-new trend. Idaho’s Democratic Party was the first state party to unionize back at the end of 2017. Wyoming will be the 17th state Democratic party to unionize, joining Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire (still in the process), Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont and Washington.

Unions function to protect workers’ rights, but the Wyoming Democrats staff say they’re happy with their current working conditions, and they’ve been thinking of unionizing for a while now.

“We’re unionizing because we think it’s the right thing to do, not because we have any complaints with our employment,” said Nina Hebert, the communications director for the state party. “We’re all happy with our pay and our benefits, but that could change with another chair. The nature of politics is turnover.”

While Hanlon and Hebert say they’re happy with the existing policies on typically hot-button employment issues like paid time off, they’re not written down anywhere, just understood among the staff and the managers. Unionizing and approving a contract would put the pre-existing policies in writing.

The union members are still in the process of drafting a contract, but party members believe that they are unlikely to engage in a back and forth bargaining, as they do not plan to put in any clauses in the contract that they do not already live by, Hebert explained. How it will ultimately play out remains to be seen.

Because political work often forces turnover of staff, the four state party members said they want to ensure that the workers who come after them are protected.

“We always have an eye towards the people who come behind us,” Hebert said.
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