Bernie Sanders campaign responds to staffers' demand for $15 minimum wage by ... cutting back hours

Congrats on finally becoming a capitalist, Bernie.

If you missed Ed’s post on Friday about Team Bernie’s crash course in real-world economics, read it now for background. The campaign’s field organizers realized they’ve been working an average of 60 hours a week at a rate of $36,000 per year, which shakes out to a bit less than $15 per hour — the magic number Bernie himself has demanded be set as the new federal minimum wage. He can’t pay us less than what he wants every American to be paid, his staffers rightly reasoned. So they’ve complained to management and the complaints leaked into the press and now there’s a hubbub over the country’s most prominent socialist nickel-and-diming his own labor force and, quite simply, it’s the feelgood story of the summer.


It was, of course, also completely foreseeable. Mandate higher wages and a business will start slashing hours to make ends meet. Or laying people off, of course — that’s the inevitable next chapter in this comedy. Unless, I suppose, Bernie decides to sell one of his vacation homes and uses the proceeds to keep a few extra people on the payroll for awhile.

In a statement provided to Newsweek, [campaign manager Faiz] Shakir said that the campaign has been in discussions about pay structure changes with the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400, the union representing the organizers.

“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,” Shakir said. “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 leadership at the campaign previously offered a pay increase for field organizers, but that the offer was rejected in a formal vote. According to the Post, Shakir offered organizer pay to be raised to $42,000 annually and extend the workweek to six days. The offer was reportedly rejected because it would have elevated staff to a pay level in which they’d be responsible to pay more of their own health care costs.

As of now, Bernie’s field organizers have all of their health insurance premiums covered by the campaign. By comparison, campaign supervisors who make more than $36,000 per year have only 85 percent of their premiums covered. Team Bernie, champions of Medicare for All, counteroffered the field organizers’ demand for higher pay here in part by adding the condition that disgruntled employees take on some of the financial burden of their own health insurance.


Here’s the icing on the cake, though:

[Sanders] expressed frustration that staffers had taken their complaints to the media.

“It does bother me that people are going outside of the process and going to the media,” he said. “That is really not acceptable. It is really not what labor negotiations are about, and it’s improper.”

Yeah, since when do workers make their grievances with management publicly known in order to gain leverage in a labor dispute?

This guy and his fans get boners every time a picket line forms somewhere but when it’s his own staffers complaining to the press he’s like, “I’m disappointed they weren’t more discreet about this.”

Spend a few minutes with this very recent analysis from CBO estimating the macroeconomic effects of a mandatory $15 minimum wage. Bottom line: 1.3 million jobs gone. Those lucky enough to keep their jobs will do better, obviously, but there are other bad knock-on effects:

In CBO’s estimation, it would:

— Boost workers’ earnings through higher wages, though some of those higher earnings would be offset by higher rates of joblessness;
— Reduce business income and raise prices as higher labor costs were absorbed by business owners and then passed on to consumers; and
— Reduce the nation’s output slightly through the reduction in employment and a corresponding decline in the nation’s stock of capital (such as buildings, machines, and technologies).

On the basis of those effects and CBO’s estimate of the median effect on employment, the $15 option would reduce total real (inflation-adjusted) family income in 2025 by $9 billion, or 0.1 percent.


Exit question: Will Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez join in solidarity when Bernie staffers eventually go on strike against him?

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John Stossel 1:00 PM | June 15, 2024