The Campaign Workers Guild
has been organizing among campaign workers all over the country as energy, enthusiasm, and money focus on the special and state level elections building up to the 2018 midterm elections. The guild is a new, national independent union representing non-management workers on electoral and issue-based campaigns.
Last Friday the campaign staff for Democratic-Farmer-Labor gubernatorial candidate Erin Murphy became the first Minnesota electoral campaign and the first gubernatorial race in the country to ratify a collective bargaining agreement. The guild has now ratified contracts with campaigns in eight states.
The guild fights the basic premise that to have a career in political campaigns, you have to be privileged. Often campaign workers are expected to have a car, no other obligations, and have the resources on hand to work for minimal pay and excessive hours.
“The protections of a union make campaign work much more of a sustainable career. Collective bargaining and labor solidarity have allowed our team to live the values we’re fighting for in this race: a living wage, health insurance, paid leave policies,” said Charles Cox, Field & Political Organizer. “I'm proud of my fellow workers for getting us here and to be supporting a candidate who practices what she’s running on.”
Ihaab Syed, Secretary of the Campaign Workers Guild explained that “Murphy for Minnesota workers have done an incredible job bargaining their contract. They are eager to serve as an example for workers across the state and country.”
The contract and organizing efforts prioritize guarding against sexual harassment. The high pressure and temporary nature of campaign work encourage those who are both experiencing, and are a witness, to sexual harassment to stay silent to protect the candidate and not lose a job.
“We think that (campaigns) are important and working really hard to elect the candidates is something that can change the future of our state,” said Emma LaBounty, an Illinois-based organizer with the Campaign Workers Guild. “But, it’s also something where a lot of times employers will use that as a reason why people should just put their head down, work really hard, and just not allow themselves to worry about anything else. . . until after election day.”
Guild contracts require sexual harassment training and reporting procedures that result in action steps. Furthermore, contracts include timing language to guarantee a short, "findings period."
By setting enforceable working place standards, the guilds organizing efforts make this campaign work more sustainable and accessible.