The Future: Campaign Staff Unions

Editors’ Note: Sourced from Huffpost, May 4, 2020.

While candidates for office proclaim allegiance to and platforms to benefit unions and their members, the failure of those same candidates to create and offer union membership and benefits to campaign workers represents patent hypocrisy.

VoxFairfax addressed this sore spot issue (Toward a More Perfect Union, August 4, 2019, https://wp.me/p9wDCF-zE), noting that a number of Democratic candidates have begun to respond to the obvious criticism and have taken action.

During the Democratic campaign for the presidential nomination, the staffs of Bernie Sanders, Julian Castro, Eric Swalwell, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren became unionized, leading Swalwell to comment that such would be a requirement for future campaigns.

Traditionally, campaign staff personnel have mainly been volunteers. However, as the need for seasoned workers has increased, staffing demanded more professional skills commanding higher wages; thus, reliance upon volunteers became worrisome. Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign ratified a union contract that will give his staff a $15-an-hour minimum wage, overtime pay, and a grievance process.

Biden’s campaign had previously recognized a union representing its organizers in Iowa, the first state to vote (via caucus) in the Democratic presidential contests. The new agreement covers all of the campaign’s organizers throughout the country. The organizers will be members of the Cedar Rapids-based Teamsters Local 238.

For the first time in history, the campaign staff for a presumptive nominee of a major political party will be covered under a union agreement. We are pleased to announce that Biden for President field organizers, represented by Teamsters Local 238, have ratified a collective bargaining agreement.

“For the first time in history, the campaign staff for a presumptive nominee of a major political party will be covered under a union agreement,” said Jesse Case, the local’s secretary-treasurer. “We are pleased to announce that Biden for President field organizers, represented by Teamsters Local 238, have ratified a collective bargaining agreement effective May 1.”

Field staffers have historically worked long hours for some of the lowest pay in politics, and were often expected to be on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Since 2016, staffers for a growing number of Democratic campaigns and state parties have formed unions, including the staffs of at least seven major 2020 Democratic presidential primary campaigns.

The new agreement will result in field organizers’ annual pay spiking by an average of $1,900. Campaign staff will also receive a 100% employer contribution for medical and vision coverage. The new contract covers about 100 members of the Biden campaign at the moment. 

The Biden campaign says the new agreement will result in field organizers’ annual pay spiking by an average of $1,900. Campaign staff will also receive a 100% employer contribution for medical and vision coverage. The new contract covers about 100 members of the Biden campaign at present. 

Biden, a self-described “union guy,” has long said he would support a staff union. He has released plans to make it easier for workers to organize and has earned the endorsement of the International Association of Firefighters, both major teachers’ unions, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, and other major labor groups.

 

“We are proud that our campaign continues to live out the values that have defined Vice President Biden’s career,” said Maju Varghese, the campaign’s chief operating officer.  “That is why his plan to grow a stronger, more inclusive middle class—the backbone of the American economy—demands that we strengthen public- and private-sector unions and help all workers bargain successfully for what they deserve. Our hardworking field organizers are no exception, and their efforts are critical to our success at the ballot box this fall.”

Staff positions at a number of state legislatures have been unionizing for some years, bolstering the movement of unions into the politisphere. At the same time, there is no political  monopoly on unions as they will support candidates as their wallets dictate. P45 was a favorite of unions, especially blue collar ones. At present, no GOP candidate at any level has received media attention for creating a union for campaign workers. Perhaps when that becomes bipartisan, a new competition will emerge for both union support and recruitment of campaign workers.



Categories: elections, Issues, labor and unions, Local, National

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