Unionized campaign organizers employed by Sen. Bernie Sanders are demanding an increase in pay, saying the presidential candidate is not paying them fairly, according to a story in The Washington Post.
Campaign staffers have complained to Sanders’ campaign manager that they are receiving “poverty wages,” and they are asking for pay equivalent to a $15-an-hour average wage.
Sanders, I-Vermont, has for years advocated for a federal minimum wage of at least $15 an hour.
The staffers union has been negotiating with Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir, according to the Post story. The conflict over pay, according to the story, “dates back to at least May and remains unresolved.”
The newspaper’s reporting came from emails exchanged between the employees, the union and Shakir. The documents, the story said, were provided to the Post “on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the private talks.”
Late Thursday, Shakir issued this statement in response to the story:
“We know our campaign offers wages and benefits competitive with other campaigns, as is shown by the latest fundraising reports. 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.”
The union representing Sanders' campaign workers, United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400, did not comment on the negotiations, according to the Post story.
Four Democratic campaigns – those of Eric Swalwell, who left the race last week, Elizabeth Warren, Julian Castro and Sanders – announced that their staffs would be represented by a union, a first for presidential campaigns.
“We’re honored that his (Sanders) campaign will be the first to have a unionized workforce,” Shakir said in a statement in March.
Everyone on Sanders’ campaign under the rank of deputy director would be represented by a union, per the agreement first announced in March. Field organizers were to be paid not by the hour, but by a straight salary of $36,000 a year, according to their original employment agreement.
According to a draft of a letter to Shakir from the staffers, field organizers were working at least 60 hours per week, putting their average hourly pay at less than $13.
“Given our campaign’s commitment to fighting for a living wage of at least $15 an hour, we believe it is only fair that the campaign would carry through this commitment to its own field team,” the letter reads.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure this week that would raise the national minimum wage to $15 per hour. The bill has been sent to the Senate. Sanders has introduced a bill on the Senate floor that would make the federal minimum wage at least $15 an hour.
According to the Post story, in May, Shakir recommended raising the pay for field organizers to $42,000 and changing the workweek specifications. According to the union, Shakir was seeking to extend the workweek to six days.
The union is asking for health care benefits to be increased and for reimbursement of mileage at 58 cents per mile.