Democrats love to sing, “Look for the union label” … when it comes to taking Big Labor cash. When it comes to allowing unions to organize campaign workers and party organizations, NBC reports, Democrats sing an entirely different tune. Instead of living the union life, candidates and party leaders start looking more like the fat-cat bosses that they decry:
“The Democratic Party is a champion of labor rights, except where its own laborers are concerned,” reads the sign-on letter for the Campaign Workers Guild. “We sacrifice our health, financial security, and leisure time to support candidates and movements that we hope will make our society more prosperous, equitable, and inclusive. It’s time for our employers to live up to the values they publicly espouse.”
Democrats mainly disagree with this demand. NBC notes that only a handful of campaigns out the hundreds in each cycle have been unionized. When campaign workers begin organizing for something other than the candidate, they find themselves pushed out the door:
When workers on one self-proclaimed progressive’s congressional campaign decided to unionize, they ran into “classic union busting” tactics, according a former staffer, who asked that he and the campaign remain anonymous for fear of jeopardizing future job prospects.
After initially agreeing the sign the deal, campaign officials dragged their feet, the worker said, and then kicked the unionizing workers out of the office, forcing them to work remotely and call ahead before picking up campaign material.
It’s not tough to come up with an argument against unionizing campaign workers, at least. Presidential campaigns and some in the Senate can go on for two full years, but most other campaigns last only a few months at a time. They usually operate on a red-ink basis, too, with some campaigns struggling to repay debt after the election, win or lose. They beg for money and have to make assurances on how the money gets spent, and payroll isn’t usually a high priority for donors, although perhaps it should be given the importance of boots on the ground to most candidates. Campaign workers are temps, and it makes little sense to unionize jobs that will only last a few months.
Union advocates reject this argument:
Meg Riley, vice president of Campaign Workers Guild, said union members are just as committed to the success of their campaigns as anyone else.
“Signing a collective bargaining agreement doesn’t have to be expensive,” she said. “If you cannot pay your workers a living wage, you shouldn’t have any. You should not be a candidate.”
Those arguments matter a lot less when it comes to standing party organizations, though, which appear to offer as much resistance in NBC’s reporting. It speaks to a culture among Democrats of hypocrisy — forcing others to deal with regulations that makes resisting unionization while refusing to play by their own rules. If unionization is as benevolent and beneficial as Democrats claim on the stump and in legislatures, why don’t they embrace it for their own workers?
The real reasons aren’t hard to imagine. A unionized workforce would be more costly, create more management tasks, and distract from the core focus of campaigns — elections. It would add layers of complexity to organizing and reduce the kind of flexibility required to shift resources as needed. It would take longer to remove ineffective workers, which would make the entire organization less efficient, which is a real problem in highly competitive environments. Campaigns would much rather rely on a free market for labor rather than turn over control of their labor costs and decisions to a small group of outsiders that operate for their own benefit rather than the benefit of the organization and its mission, even if the two coincide in part.
It’s easy to understand their reluctance. Now, if only these same Democrats could grasp why other private organizations feel the same reluctance and act accordingly.