Op-ed: Hatch, Lee forsake vulnerable Utahns

By Isaac Holyoak

Published: April 18, 2014 05:47PM
Updated: April 18, 2014 05:47PM
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With a combined 42 years in Washington, D.C., Senators Hatch and Lee are proving that what binds them is neither ideology nor their Utah heritage, but the degree to which Utah’s distance from the capital city has made it easier for them to ignore the Utahns who need them most. Recent votes by Hatch and Lee suggest that the two senators are actively engaged in harming Utahns in matters related to employment opportunities.

In the first instance, Hatch and Lee voted against extending benefits to long term unemployed Utahns. Despite bipartisan support to extend benefits to over 20,000 unemployed Utahns, Hatch and Lee voted against the measure.

Even though their votes are perhaps not surprising, it is nevertheless very disappointing to be reminded that unemployment benefits, which are an important stopgap for preserving the honor of the unemployed while they search for gainful employment, aren’t important enough for Hatch and Lee.

It’s worth noting that Hatch hasn’t always viewed feeding families as anathema to his now rightwing-approved agenda. In the past, he has demonstrated ample support for safety net spending, most notably in his support for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. Hatch hasn’t been able to adequately account for why he’s concerned about whether or not a child is insured, but not if a child’s unemployed parents can afford to put food on the table. (Which is to say nothing of Hatch and Lee’s willingness to provide aid to Ukrainians but not their fellow Utahns).

In the second instance, both of our senators voted against eliminating the wage gap between women and men. Whereas 20,000 Utahns have found themselves without long term employment benefits, fully half of the state is female, and they make up just under half of the workforce. And Utah, despite our reputation for a preference for the homemaker lifestyle, has slightly more women working outside of the home than the national average. Of those working women, Utah has a significantly higher proportion who work part time. Almost a third of Utah women work part-time compared to about a fifth of their national peers.

Part-time employment compounds the wage gap. Since part-time workers are less likely to have access to employment benefits, like retirement contributions, health insurance and sick and vacation leave, their wage gap is more significant than what the data might suggest. Even then, Utah’s wage gap is one of the largest in the nation. Women in Utah make 70 cents for every dollar that a man makes.

It’s been a long time since either Hatch or Lee have had a real job; perhaps their lack of commitment to the backbone of Utah’s economy — our workforce — is merely a problem of not knowing what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck. However, I suspect it’s likely more intentional than a failure to relate to Utahns. In fact, these two votes, taken in order, suggest that Utah’s senators are actively engaged against Utahns like you and me. Less clear, however, is what it will take to get the two to reverse their behavior and start working for us rather than against us.

Isaac Holyoak is communications director for Alliance for a Better UTAH.