Democrats claim to love unions, but many are now working to kill a new plan to unionize campaign volunteers before it even gets off the drawing board, NBC News reports.
In an April 15 article provocatively entitled, “Democrats love unions. Just not for their own campaign workers,” NBC slams liberals who espouse their love of unions even as they work to quash an effort to force political campaigns to pay a “living wage” to campaign workers. It would be a move that would add millions to the costs of running for office and bring even more money — not less — into politics.
For the most part, campaign staffers work for little to no compensation. Most volunteer their time to get their favorite candidate into office and their work is generally considered all “for the cause.”
But now a new group calling itself the Campaign Workers Guild (CWG) is attempting to establish itself as the guiding organizer for campaign workers.
According to the erstwhile new union’s website, the CWG wants to “improve working conditions” for campaign workers.
We are campaign workers from across the United States who are committed to improving our work conditions, empowering organizers, and promoting healthy career longevity. We regularly work more than ten hours a day, seven days a week for low pay, often without health coverage. We usually don’t get sick days, much less a day off — and we’re fed up.
To be clear, we are done with candidates disrespecting the workers who put them in office. We are improving pay, creating processes to prevent and report sexual harassment, and fighting for the basic labor protections that all workers deserve.
Only when our work is fairly compensated, our experience properly valued, and our rights adequately protected will our mission be complete.
But according to NBC, Democrat candidates are not looking with much enthusiasm on the new venture despite the general claim by Democrats that unions are an important part of our national economy.
“While the CWG declined to say how many campaigns they’ve tried to unionize or discuss ongoing efforts,” NBC reported, “they acknowledged encountering resistance from progressive candidates and organizations.”
NBC also noted that the Democrat Party in Washington DC has remained silent on the unionization effort.
Thus far, the only national figure to comment, Rep. Keith Ellison (D, MN), the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, did so only obliquely saying that Democrats should “live up to” their progressive “values.”
Interestingly, NBC also found that even as the Democrat National Committee recently began paying its interns, it is Republicans who are far more likely to pay interns than Democrats.
Despite the general reticence on the matter, NBC said that at least two state Democrat parties have unionized their staffers:
“We consider unionizing our staff to be practicing what we preach,” said Conor Casey, the executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party, which unionized late last year. “How could we fight for universal healthcare and a livable wage if we’re denying our own employees the right to organize?”
Vermont was the first state party in the country to unionize, and was quickly followed Idaho, though the efforts were separate and each party is affiliated with a different union.
“By professionalizing our teams and rewarding longevity, we hope to keep a seasoned staff with several election cycles under their belts,” Casey said.
NBC went on to praise the efforts of unions to “reach beyond their traditional industries.”
What NBC did not note with its sunny reporting on the “growth” of unions outside traditional industries is that unions are still declining overall, not growing.
Not long ago, Forbes noted that “In 2013 the unionized workforce in America hit a 97 year low. Only 11.3% of all workers were unionized.” And by 2016 that number had fallen to 6.4 percent, according to America magazine.
Indeed, the decline in unionism may have contributed to Donald Trump’s narrow win in some formerly deep blue states that once had a heavy union presence. According to the Daily Signal, the relative weakness of unions allowed many union members to vote their consciences for Trump instead of being browbeaten into supporting Hillary to please union bosses.
Still, a representative of the new effort to organize campaign workers insists that if a candidate can’t pay staffers a “living wage,” then he shouldn’t be a candidate at all.
“Signing a collective bargaining agreement doesn’t have to be expensive,” CWG vice president Meg Riley told NBC. “If you cannot pay your workers a living wage, you shouldn’t have any. You should not be a candidate.”
A big question remains, though. For years, now — and especially with the Bernie Sanders campaign — Democrats have been proclaiming a desire to “get money out of politics.” But if campaign workers are unionized, that can only drive the costs of running for office to even higher numbers meaning that even more money will have to be pumped into politics to satisfy union demands.
So, how does the expensive proposition of unionizing campaign staffers affect the bottom line and help keep money out of politics?
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.