Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has advocated for a $15 minimum wage and more unionization for years. He’s also put his money where his mouth is, by becoming the first presidential campaign to unionize and pay his workers at least $15 an hour.
But this also means his campaign has become an example of the pitfalls of his policies. His campaign’s union contract resulted in a flat annual salary of $36,000 for field staffers. In a normal 40-hour work week, that would pay about $17 per hour. But some staffers say they work up to 60 hours a week, meaning their pay ends up being about $13 per hour.
To combat this, Sanders’ campaign will now limit staffers’ hours to ensure they are paid at least $15 an hour.
“We look forward to continuing those discussions and obviously are disappointed that some individuals decided to damage the integrity of these efforts before they were concluded," said Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir in a statement to Newsweek. "As these discussions continue, we are limiting hours so no employee is receiving less than $15 for any hours worked."
Shakir also told Newsweek that the campaign had offered to give field organizers a raise — to $42,000 annually, but the offer was rejected because staffers would have had to work six days a week. That salary also would have forced them “to pay more of their own health care costs,” Newsweek reported.
The Des Moines Register reported that Sanders complained that staffers were going to the press instead of keeping their concerns internal.
“I'm very proud to be the first presidential candidate to recognize a union and negotiate a union contract," Sanders told the outlet. "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."
"It does bother me that people are going outside of the process and going to the media," he added. "That is really not acceptable. It is really not what labor negotiations are about, and it's improper."
Sanders had previously expressed his dismay with press leaks ahead of his trip to Iowa this weekend.
“We are disappointed that some individuals have decided to damage the integrity of these efforts. We are involved in negotiations. And some are individuals that have decided to damage the integrity of that process before they were concluded,” he said.
What Sanders is experiencing is exactly what he wants to foist onto millions of Americans and their employers. His staffers were salaried, but hourly workers will also see their hours cut in order to ensure they’re paid $15 per hour. As for negotiations, those demanding better working conditions routinely go to the press. They also sometimes hold strikes that are guaranteed to get media coverage. For Sanders to complain about how things are going in his campaign shows he hasn’t truly thought through the consequences of his policies.