U.S. Senator and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has been a staunch proponent of at least a $15 federal minimum wage for years. Due to his strong stance on this issue, Sanders’ campaign field team felt they should benefit from such a wage. For his part, Sanders followed through. However, it wasn’t exactly in a way his staff was likely thrilled about.
According to TheBlaze, the 2020 presidential contender’s campaign made history earlier this year when its workers became unionized. According to the Washington Post, Sanders’ staff didn’t waste any time in flexing their collective bargaining rights. The media outlet collected e-mails and other documents that showed the fight over pay began in May of this year, the same month workers for Sanders’ campaign ratified their “contract to be represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 400.”
In a draft letter planned to be sent to Faiz Shakir, Sanders’ campaign manager, the union argued that 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 letter maintained that salaried field employees who earned salaries of $36,000 per year were working a minimum of 60 hours each week. Therefore, their average pay per hour was less than $13.
Union representatives contended 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.” The union requested that field organizer salaries be bumped up to $46,800 a year. The union also asked the campaign to pay for 100 percent of all health care costs for those staffers earning $60,000 a year or less. A $0.58 per mile mileage reimbursement was also demanded for field staff workers.
So, what did the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate do when the union representing his staff claimed they were working for “poverty wages?” Rather than caving to the union’s lofty salary demands, Sanders simply responded by cutting the workers’ hours so their salary will now average a minimum of $15 an hour. According to the Des Moines Register, “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.”
Rather than earning more money, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate’s workers will get more free time. But, of course, Sanders proclaimed his decision was a huge success. The Vermont Senator informed the Des Moines Register, “I’m very proud to be the first presidential candidate to recognize a union and negotiate a union contract. 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.”
Last week, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives approved a $15 minimum wage bill. However, the measure virtually has a zero percent chance of passing in the Republican-controlled Senate. Interestingly, one outspoken Representative doesn’t believe the House went far enough. At an event in Detroit on July 21, 2019, Rashida Tlaib, Democrat – Michigan, argued for a $20 federal minimum wage.
“Tipped employees make $2.13 per hour, federally,” Tlaib said. “Think about that for one minute. People cannot live on those kind of wages, and I can’t allow people to be living off tips, you know, relying on tips for wages. It’s just not enough to support our families. … By the way, when we started it, it should have been $15. Now I think it should be $20 — make sure America Rising hears that.”
According to Fox News, the Congressional Budget Office, CBO, “noted the ‘considerable uncertainty’ in calculating the impact of the minimum wage from state to state, and indicated that up to 17 million Americans could see pay increases.” The CBO also revealed “the move would reduce real family income by about $9 billion in 2025 — or 0.1 percent” due to diminished business income, increased consumer prices, and a reduction in the country’s output.