Former unpaid interns.
Several Democratic congressional campaigns have agreed to bargain collectively with the Campaign Workers Guild, a new union trying to organize election campaign staff in what may be a first for national politics.
The CWG announced Monday that it had secured a union contract with the campaign of Wisconsin activist Randy Bryce, the leading Democratic challenger to Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan in this year’s midterm elections.
Campaign staffers are the latest professional targets for labor organizers. While overall U.S. unionization remained at a record-low 10.7 percent, last year saw membership in the overwhelmingly non-union professional and technical services sector grow by close to 90,000 members, bringing the total number of unionized American workers to 14.8 million, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
The CWG’s effort is a first for congressional campaigns, which are staffed largely by contract and short-term workers operating in what are often high-pressure work environments.
“There’s no question that it’s exploitative work,” said Rutgers University labor studies professor Janice Fine, who’s worked on local and national election campaigns. “It’s premised on the idea that young people will work 24-7 in a selfless — and often dangerously selfless — way, and that culture has been passed on for generations.”
Among the issues the union said it seeks to take on are hours that approach eighty per week and wages that are below $15 an hour.
Under the agreement with Bryce’s campaign, workers will get paid time off and earn at least $3,000 per month. The negotiated contract covers eight employees and includes a third-party reporting process for sexual harassment and monthly health insurance reimbursement of up to $500, the campaign said. “Randy is a candidate who practices what he preaches,” said Bryce spokeswoman Lauren Hitt.