Community , Government , Legal

Osage employee starts petition against new law that cuts employee leave

Osage Nation Police Department employee Miya McKim is circulating a petition against a new law that does away with employees administrative leave.

Titled, “Petition to Declare No Confidence in Osage Nation Congress with one exception,” the petition calls ONCA 16-100 unconstitutional. The act, to repeal and replace the Osage Nation Work Force Pay for Performance Act with the Merit Based Employment System Act, was sponsored by Congresswoman Shannon Edwards.

Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear vetoed the bill but it was overridden. The “exception” was Congressman R.J. Walker, who voted “no” for the bill and the override.

“It removes cultural supports that were wisely put in place to recognize our traditions and the need for our people who are employed by the Nation to participate in our cultural activities,” wrote McKim in the petition. “Cultural activities are relevant to preservation of our Tribal history and distinctions, which are as much a part of our sovereignty as our language.”

McKim said the work on the petition is being done on her own time with her own resources. She said she has visited with numerous employees and community members about the bill and many are upset by its ramifications.

“The changes limit our time for bereavement and funerary preparations directly in opposition to our cultural traditions,” she wrote in the petition. “Limitations on our cooks from their traditional time for tending to preparations for Village and funerary responsibilities are in direct opposition to our Constitution. In-Lon-Schka at all three villages is integral to who we are. The employee parameters for participation were also changed.”

She references the Osage Constitution in the petition, specifically Article 16, Osage Culture and Language, “The Osage Nation shall protect and promote the language, culture and traditional ways of the Osage People.”

The Fifth Osage Nation Congress called itself into a Third Special Session for 10 a.m. on Nov. 28. The merit bill is listed on the agenda.

Standing Bear has said he is going to file suit against ONCA 16-100 but nothing has been filed in Osage Nation Trial Court.

Human Resources

Anna Trumbly, compensation analyst for the Nation’s Human Resources department, spoke to the employees of the boards and commissions on Nov. 9 about the changes that took effect on Oct. 4. She said the legal team for the Executive Branch has been helping the HR department interpret ONCA 16-100.

In essence, the new law eliminates administrative leave altogether for the Nation’s employees, but it does not affect the Osage Casinos employees. What used to be deemed administrative leave, which is time off that did not affect employee paid time off (PTO), will now come out of their PTO. The law also shrunk the employees leave bank from 260 hours of PTO to 180 hours of PTO.

The changes Trumbly stressed were:

-       Bereavement leave. Employees used to get four days of bereavement leave for funerals but will now only receive one day of bereavement leave and the employee must be an immediate family member of the deceased. Osage funerals last for four days.

-       There will be no more administrative leave for the three In-Lon-Schka dances for those employees who serve on dance committees. Leave for the In-Lon-Schka dances can be up to 48 hours or more, especially if the employee plays an integral role in the dance.

-       Employees will no longer have the day off following Thanksgiving day.

-       Employees will no longer get administrative leave when the Nation is closed due to snow or ice, or other hazardous conditions. The time off will come out of the employees PTO. In the past, the Nation, or parts of the Nation, has been closed for gas leaks, water line breaks, tornadoes, ice storms, air condition/heat outages, and other emergencies.  

 

Trumbly said since Christmas Eve and Christmas Day fall on a Saturday and Sunday this year HR has yet to figure out what days, if any, employees will have off – and the same goes for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Petition

McKim said a copy of the petition is available at the Title VI office in Pawhuska and employees can sign it on their lunch hour. She said there are two petitions, one for employees and one for Osage citizens who are not employees.

“I am looking for volunteers to help me circulate the petitions and I would love some help,” she said.

She said she is willing to meet people after work. McKim can be reached at (918) 237-7093.