With an announcement made this week, the campaign staff of Randy Bryce — a union ironworker who is challenging Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan — became the first in the country to form a union.
The contract was organized by the Campaign Workers Guild, a group of former campaign workers from all walks of life who had for years casually discussed the idea of unionizing, but finally got together to make it happen.
Colin O’Neill, an organizer at the CWG, told The Intercept that he had discussed the idea of organizing campaign staff for years with others who regularly worked for political candidates. He cited 80-hour workweeks and other persistently difficult working conditions as the reasons why they want to organize campaign workers.
“The industry is chronically underpaid and campaign workers are pretty overworked, so it was a pretty unhealthy situation for the workers,” he said.
“It was actually really great, it was kind of liberating,” Bryce told The Intercept about what it was like to be on the other side of the table in a union drive. “I spent almost a year as a full-time staff organizer for the Ironworkers.”
When asked if we will soon see the campaign worker union movement spread to other candidates, O’Neill said they are talking to a number of campaigns who have reached out and that in at least one campaign, both the candidate and campaign staff are supportive of the staff forming a union.
Lauren Hitt, a spokesperson for Bryce and a member of the new union, said that while the new contract does offer some paid time off and holidays, the hectic pace of campaigning could still drive staffers to work in cases in which they’re needed. “If Paul Ryan decides to tweet something idiotic about $1.50 on a Saturday, we’re all working,” she said. “Our first job is to get him elected.”
Currently, the CWG is just working with campaigns for candidates for office, but it is also open to expanding its focus. “We’re really open right now — the campaigns that we have a contract with and the ones we’re negotiating with,” O’Neill told us. “We’re very much open to the idea of working with issue campaigns. Really there’s no limit in terms of whether we’re willing to work with smaller or lager campaigns as well.”
O’Neill also confirmed that the campaigns the guild is actively working on organizing are Democratic candidates, but they are also open to working with campaigns from other parties. “It’s time for candidates to really live their values and support the labor rights they fight for,” he concluded.