Trouble In Bernie Land: His Campaign Is Struggling To Fulfill A Major Policy Promise

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Posted: Jul 21, 2019 12:55 PM
Trouble In Bernie Land: His Campaign Is Struggling To Fulfill A Major Policy Promise

Source: AP Photo/John Locher

Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) campaign staff officially unionized back in May, making his 2020 presidential campaign the first in history to agree to collective bargaining. Sanders has been an outspoken proponent of a $15 an hour minimum wage and his campaign vowed to implement that policy with staffers. But now, his campaign is having issues holding up to that end of the bargain.

According to campaign field staffers, they're making an annual salary of $36,000 a year, which would equate to roughly $17 an hour in a 40 hour work week. The problem, however, is staffers are working more than 40 hours a week. Some are working as much as 60 hours a week, making their pay roughly $13 an hour.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400, the union that represents Bernie's campaign staffers, have drafted a letter they plan to send campaign manager Faiz Shakir later this week, The Washington Post reported.

Field organizers “cannot be expected to build the largest grassroots organizing program in American history while making poverty wages. Given our campaign’s commitment to fighting for a living wage of at least $15.00 an hour, we believe it is only fair that the campaign would carry through this commitment to its own field team," the draft said.

While the union and the campaign continue negotiations, staffers will be limited to working only 40 hours a week.

“We look forward to continuing those discussions and obviously are disappointed that some individuals decided to damage the integrity of these efforts before they were concluded," Shakir told Newsweek. "As these discussions continue, we are limiting hours so no employee is receiving less than $15 for any hours worked."

According to Newsweek, the campaign offered to bump field staffers' annual salary to $42,000 a year but, in exchange, they'd have to work six days a week and pay more of their own health care costs. The union rejected the offer.

“We know our campaign offers wages and benefits competitive with other campaigns, as is shown by the latest fundraising reports,”  Shakir said in a 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.”

Although negotiations are ongoing, some campaign staffers have gone to the media about what's taking place, something Sanders and Shakir take issue with.

"It does bother me that people are going outside of the process and going to the media," Shakir told the Des Moines Register. "That is really not acceptable. It is really not what labor negotiations are about, and it's improper."

Bernie shared similar sentiments.

“We are disappointed that some individuals have decided to damage the integrity of these efforts. We are involved in negotiations. And some are individuals that have decided to damage the integrity of that process before they were concluded," Sanders said.

The Sanders campaign is significantly smaller than giant corporations, like General Motors or Amazon, and they can't figure out how to make the $15 an hour minimum wage work. How do politicians, like Sanders, expect business with way more employees, especially salaried employees, to make this work?

And now the question becomes...is Bernie disappointed in his people talking to the press because they "damaged the integrity" of negotiation talks or because they proved he can't walk the walk and talk the talk?