Sanders Campaign Limiting Staffer Hours in Order to Pay $15 Minimum Wage

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks during a rally in front of the Capitol April 26, 2017 in Washington, DC. Activists and low-wage workers gathered on Capitol Hill to rally for a $15 minimum and rights to form unions. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announced that his campaign will limit staffer hours in order to pay $15 an hour in response to complaints from employees who accused his campaign of paying “poverty wages.”

Sanders spoke to the Des Moines Register on Friday and defended his campaign from recent rumblings of staffer complaints.

“I’m very proud to be the first presidential candidate to recognize a union and negotiate a union contract,” he told the Des Moines Register.

“And that contract was ratified by the employees of the campaign, and it not only provides pay of at least $15 an hour, it also provides, I think, the best health care benefits that any employer can provide for our field organizers,” he continued before addressing the internal strife within his campaign.

“It does bother me that people are going outside of the process and going to the media,” he explained. “That is really not acceptable. It is really not what labor negotiations are about, and it’s improper.”

Sanders ultimately plans to limit employee hours in order to address the issue.

The Des Moines Register reported:

Sanders said field organizers, who are the lowest-ranking members of a presidential campaign and are typically in their 20s, make $36,000 a year with 100% employer-paid health care, as well as paid vacation and sick leave.

For a staffer working 40 hours a week, that comes out to about $17 an hour. But 40-hour workweeks on presidential campaigns are rare. Sanders said the campaign will limit the number of hours staffers work to 42 or 43 each week to ensure they’re making the equivalent of $15 an hour.

Reports of internal strife surfaced last week after the Washington Post reported on a letter drafted by union members to Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir. The letter states that staffers “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 letter added.

As the Washington Post reported:

A draft letter union members earlier had prepared to send Shakir as soon as this week said that the 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 letter estimated that field organizers were working 60 hours per week at minimum, dropping their average hourly pay to less than $13. It said that “many field staffers are barely managing to survive financially, which is severely impacting our team’s productivity and morale. Some field organizers have already left the campaign as a result.”

Sanders is a long-held champion of a federally-mandated $15 minimum wage and has stiff-armed reports that suggest it would hurt the economy.

A $15 hourly minimum wage could cost up to 3.7 million workers their job, according to a Congressional Budget Office report released earlier in July. However, “CBO’s median estimate for job losses is 1.3 million,” Breitbart News reported.

The CBO also found that raising the minimum wage to $15 could result in higher consumer prices and “slightly shrink the country’s economic output by reducing capital investment.”

Sanders’ announcement sparked a significant amount of mockery on Twitter.

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