Union to Bernie, Inc: Give us the $15 per hour you're promising everyone else

If you have any leftover popcorn from the Wokeback Mountain War, time to get it out. Bernie Sanders has demanded an immediate increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour for years, and has been a persistent advocate for unions. When the union representing his campaign workers demanded that wage for Bernie’s own employees, however, the Washington Post discovers that Bernie Inc has much different ideas about wages and unions:


Unionized campaign organizers working for Sen. Bernie Sanders’s presidential effort are battling with its management, arguing that the compensation and treatment they are receiving does not meet the standards Sanders espouses in his rhetoric, according to internal communications.

Campaign field hires have demanded an annual salary they say would be equivalent to a $15-an-hour wage, which Sanders for years has said should be the federal minimum. The organizers and other employees supporting them have invoked the senator’s words and principles in making their case to campaign manager Faiz Shakir, the documents reviewed by The Washington Post show.

Sanders has made standing up for workers a central theme of his presidential campaigns — this year marching with McDonald’s employees seeking higher wages, pressing Walmart shareholders to pay workers more and showing solidarity with university personnel on strike. The independent from Vermont has proudly touted his campaign as the first presidential effort to unionize its employees, and his defense of the working class has been a signature element of his brand of democratic socialism and a rallying cry for the populist movement he claims to lead.

The Sanders campaign has been fighting this demand since May, according to the internal communications reviewed by the Washington Post. After being asked for comment, both the campaign and the union lauded the unique nature of the union-employer relationship in the campaign industry. The union bragged about the “myriad protections and benefits” accorded to members through its contract, and Team Bernie declared that their willingness to work with a union showed that Sanders is “the most pro-worker and pro-labor candidate running for president.”


All of which is arguably true, as it’s still the only presidential campaign to organize its workforce. But what about the wages? After all, Bernie wants to force all American employers to pay a base rate of $15 per hour. Is he willing to put his money where his mouth is?

So far, no, and the union plans to make people aware of the “poverty wages” being provided by that exploiter of the proletariat:

A draft letter union members earlier had prepared to send Shakir as soon as this week said that the field organizers “cannot be expected to build the largest grassroots organizing program in American history while making poverty wages. Given our campaign’s commitment to fighting for a living wage of at least $15.00 an hour, we believe it is only fair that the campaign would carry through this commitment to its own field team.”

The draft letter estimated that field organizers were working 60 hours per week at minimum, dropping their average hourly pay to less than $13. It said that “many field staffers are barely managing to survive financially, which is severely impacting our team’s productivity and morale. Some field organizers have already left the campaign as a result.”

This gets to a little deception from Team Bernie that any real employer could have warned would eventually backfire. The union contract guarantees a salary of $36,000, not a base hourly wage. (Interns get paid by the hour at $15, however.) As anyone who has transitioned from hourly to salary knows, employers like to pay salaries because they can demand more hours worked without paying for overtime. The $36K level, divided by the normal annual work hours in a year (2,080), comes to $17.31 per hour. If Bernie Sanders’ field organizers are working 60 hours a week, however, that comes to 3,12o hours in a year and drops their per-hour rate to … $11.54 per hour. These workers would literally do better working at Wal-Mart, one of Bernie’s bêtes noires.


But wait — there’s more! This hourly-to-salary dodge is well known and usually treated harshly by the National Labor Relations Board and the Department of Labor. Most employers would get called on the carpet for putting non-supervisory employees — and sometimes non-management — on salary with constant demands for overtime work. However, since Team Bernie employees set their own terms through their union representation, they may not be able to sue for back wages in the way that other employees might in the private sector for misclassifying their compensation.

Why would a union negotiate a contract for front-line employees that denied them access to legitimate overtime? This sounds like a sweatshop arrangement, not a breakthrough for political campaigns. It’s trapping their members in exploitative work conditions. Isn’t that what unionizing is supposed to prevent?

So much for the Bernie Sanders workers’ paradise. And so much for the benefits of union representation, especially when the unions have a bigger investment in the employer than the employee.

Update: This is satire … I think.

With the influx of freshman Democrat House members following the mid-term elections – some of whom have expressed concerns about housing or even their next paycheck – some of the more seasoned members of the party have organized a charity to help their colleagues out. Called “Habitat for Hypocrisy”, it’s a way for the new members to get their first luxury mansion while still spouting hackneyed socialist platitudes condemning the rich and maintaining a posture of “standing up for the little people.”

Independent, occasionally Democrat, and always socialist Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who conceived of the charity, explained the origins of the idea.

“I like socialism,” said Sanders. “But I also like money. Now, you can’t actually MAKE money under a socialist system – heck, you can’t even make toilet paper – but opportunities for graft abound if you have political pull, so you can GET money. The problem is, the money has to go somewhere. Me, I put it in real estate – I own three houses, each pricier than the last. So now everyone calls me Bernie “Three Houses” Sanders, and they know I’m a millionaire. If my voter base didn’t self-select for blindness and ignorance, I’d be creek-upped and paddleless.”


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