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  • In the first time in history of the U.S., Bernie Sanders' campaign staff ratified a union contract.

    In the first time in history of the U.S., Bernie Sanders' campaign staff ratified a union contract. | Photo: Reuters

Published 9 May 2019

Bernie Sanders campaign staff ratified a union contract with provisions that include health insurance, dealing with sexual harassment and a cap on salaries.

Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign workers have ratified a union contract with management, one of the first of such contracts at this political level.

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The agreement was announced Wednesday by Bernie's campaign leaders and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 (UFCW) that the workers are already affiliated with.

"We are proud of our workers and proud to uphold Bernie's commitment to collective bargaining rights and a strong labor movement," said campaign manager Faiz Shakir in a statement.

"When Bernie Sanders is in the White House, he will make it easier, not harder to join a union and we look forward to running a campaign powered by union workers."

With the new agreement, Bernie's campaign will pay the full health insurance premiums of staffers paid under US$36,000, said Jonathan Williams, the UFCW Local 400 communications director.

It also limits the salaries for top campaign officials so that no one will be paid more than three times the highest paid worker within the bargaining unit, but this excludes outside consultants.

"One of the challenges of negotiating this contract was that you have traditionally very long hours on a campaign, but also very motivated employees who often choose to work long hours," Williams said.

Instead of capping work hours, the contract offers other types of provisions, such as providing staff four “blackout days” per month when they are not working.

Another important issue addressed in the contract is dealing with sexual harassment on the job and between employees. Sanders’ aides from his 2016 campaign were accused of sexism and sexual harassment. This time, the presidential hopeful and his supporters set out guidelines around sexual misconducts for those on the long trail to November 2020.

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According to Janice Fine who is Research and Strategy Director at the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization at Rutgers University, this contract signals a revival of the union movement even though it is just one presidential campaign.

"I think it's really new. I think it's very much a sort of a sign of the times in terms of increased activism in general and increased union activism, increased interest in unionism, particularly on the part of millennials,” Fine said.

Steve Hilderbrand, the former Democratic campaign official who served as deputy national campaign manager for Barack Obama in 2008 criticized the move.

He said: "Political campaigns are short-term gigs. They're not long-term operations, so this idea of unionization for an eight-month job, it just doesn't make a lot of sense."

For Fine, this move by Sanders’ campaign is calling out the Democratic party for not supporting the labor movement in a tangible way.

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