March 16 (UPI) — Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ campaign staff members have unionized, marking the first time workers on a presidential campaign have done so.On Friday, the 2020 campaign announced that United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 had been chosen by the majority of the bargaining employees to serve as their exclusive representative.
“We cannot just support unions with words, we must back it up with actions. On this campaign and when we are in the White House, we are going make it easier for people to join unions, not harder.”
Sanders, who announced his candidacy on Feb. 19, has sought to secure workers’ rights and work against economic inequality as a candidate and independent senator from Vermont since 2007.
“We made history and did what no other presidential campaign has done before,” Christian Bowe, a campaign staff member who works on digital communications, said in a union news release. “We are so proud to join Local 400 alongside our union brothers and sisters in the struggle for security, justice and dignity.
“Senator Sanders has been fighting for workers unlike anyone in American politics for his entire life and our campaign is committed to leading the effort to revitalize, grow and empower the labor movement like none other and that begins with our own workers. Together, we are building an unprecedented and historic grassroots campaign that will not only defeat union busters like Donald Trump but transform this country to work for all of us.”
The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 represents 35,000 members in the retail food, healthcare, retail department store, food processing, service and other industries in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.
A majority of the campaign’s 44 bargaining unit-eligible employees signed union cards by Friday.
“First, I want to congratulate the Bernie 2020 campaign workers for making history and empowering themselves to improve their pay, benefits and working conditions with a strong voice in the workplace,” UFCW Local 400 President Mark P. Federici said in a statement. “I also congratulate Senator Sanders for not only talking the talk but actually walking the walk when it comes to his commitment to uphold the right of every worker to bargain collectively.
“We expect this will mean pay parity and transparency on the campaign, with no gender bias or harassment, and equal treatment for every worker, whether they’re in Washington, D.C., Iowa, New Hampshire or anywhere else.”
Sanders recently apologized for alleged instances of sexual harassment by senior staffers during his 2016 campaign.
“To the women on my 2016 campaign who were harassed or mistreated, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for speaking out. I apologize,” Sanders said in a statement posted to Twitter. “Clearly we need a cultural revolution in this country to change workplace attitudes and behavior. I intend in every way to be actively involved in that process.”
The union will represent employees below the rank of deputy director, and negotiations for their first collective bargaining agreement “will begin as soon as possible,” according to the union.
The 2018 U.S. House candidacy of Democrat Randy Bryce in Wisconsin is believed to be the first federal electoral campaign to achieve union representation, according to the union. Bryce lost to Republican Bryan Steil.