The presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) will continue to negotiate with its unionized workers to provide better pay.
Unionized workers called for annual pay they equated to $15/hour, which Sanders has said ought to be the federal minimum. Documents obtained by the Washington Post show the organizers specifically cited Sanders’ values when making their argument. And Sanders does tout labor relations as a core value of his campaign.
While outlets like the New York Post and even the original Washington Post story have seized on the narrative to suggest Sanders is not practicing what he preaches, the Sanders campaign having unionized staffers at all is an oddity compared to other campaigns (with the exception of the Julián Castro campaign, whose staffers are unionized). And it bears note that some staffers in the Warren and Biden campaigns aren’t paid at all.
It also appears that the Sanders campaign is negotiating in good faith with the union that represents its staffers, according to messages between Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir and field organizers that were published by the Post.
“As union members, the Bernie 2020 campaign staff have access to myriad protections and benefits secured by their one-of-a-kind union contract, including many internal avenues to democratically address any number of ongoing workplace issues, including changes to pay, benefits, and other working conditions,” the union said in a statement Thursday. “We look forward to continuing to work closely with our members and the management of the Bernie 2020 campaign to ensure all workers have dignity and respect in the workplace.”
Some Bernie campaign staffers want better pay and benefits, so they’re negotiating. Good for them, but there’s no sensational story here. A few people decided to talk to the press about it, almost certainly without union consent and its being inflated. https://t.co/iuzXr6shpw
— Bhaskar Sunkara (@sunraysunray) July 19, 2019
The union and the campaign reached a collective bargaining agreement in March, but based on feedback from its members, and communications between union members and Shakir, the union decided to push for better pay in a draft letter expected to be sent to the campaign as soon as this week. Despite sensational coverage, there is no indication that the campaign will not be willing to negotiate again over the issue of wages going forward.
“We know our campaign offers wages and benefits competitive with other campaigns, as is shown by the latest fundraising reports,” Shakir said in a Thursday statement. “Every member of the campaign, from the candidate on down, joined this movement in order to defeat Donald Trump and transform America. Bernie Sanders is the most pro-worker and pro-labor candidate running for president. We have tremendous staff who are working hard. Bernie and I both strongly believe in the sanctity of the collective bargaining process and we will not deviate from our commitment to it.”
Records of communication between individual staffers and Shakir about pay date back to May and remain unresolved. It is unknown to what extent Sanders himself was aware of the situation prior to the Washington Post‘s reporting Friday. It’s also worth mentioning that the Post is owned by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, whom Sanders has made a target of for his excessive wealth through, among other things, a bill literally named “Stop BEZOS.”
Shakir chose not to negotiate the collective bargaining agreement in the pages of the Washington Post, saying instead he would only through the channels specified in the union agreement. He did, however, say that it would damage campaign finances to alter the rate of pay after hiring based on the original agreement with the union.
For its part, the union set a goal of resolving the issue by July 31 in the draft letter obtained by the Post.
(Featured image: Andrew Seaman/Creative Commons)
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.