Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign staff is reportedly experiencing internal turmoil over staff complaints that the campaign isn’t paying the equivalent of the $15 an hour wage that Sanders has backed as a federal minimum, and promised to all working Americans should he win the presidency in 2020.
According to a report, unionized members of Sanders’ staff have been using the senator’s own campaign rhetoric against him as they try to wrestle more pay from the self-described democratic socialist.
Internal campaign emails obtained by the Washington Post showed that several field organizers contacted the campaign on July 11 to complain that they were underpaid. “I am struggling financially to do my job, and in my state, we’ve already had 4 people quit in the past 4 weeks because of financial struggles,” the story quoted one stating. The messages were sent during a online social media event set up by the campaign to address internal staff matters.
“Many field staffers are barely managing to survive financially,” the union letter says, “which is severely impacting our team’s productivity and morale. Some field organizers have already left the campaign as a result.”
The workers began demanding a raise in May, arguing that Sanders, who has made a $15 federal minimum wage a centerpiece of his campaign, should honor that commitment in compensating his own staff.
Sanders campaign reportedly pays its field organizers not on an hourly basis but with a flat annual salary of $36,000. That is the equivalent of a little more than $17 an hour for a 40-hour week, but presidential campaigns typically require their worker to put in hours far in excess of that. Staffers have complained that that workload drags their average pay down bellow $15 a hour.
In a letter to Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir, the campaign staffers claim they “cannot be expected to build the largest grassroots organizing program in American history while making poverty wages,” the Washington Post reported.
“Given our campaign’s commitment to fighting for a living wage of at least $15.00 an hour,” the letter continues, “we believe it is only fair that the campaign would carry through this commitment to its own field team.”
As for Sanders himself, the Post said it was unclear whether the candidate was aware of the grievances among his campaign staff.
The Post report surfaced on the same day that the Democrat-controlled House voted in favor of a bill to gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, unchanged since 2009.
On Thursday, Sanders slammed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for not setting a floor vote on the $15 federal minimum wage bill that passed the House Thursday. “Mitch McConnell is wrong. Since 1979, when a state has increased the min. wage, employment and wages typically go up, not down,” Sanders said. “A $15 minimum wage would raise wages for 39 million people and lift millions of Americans out of poverty. Why is McConnell afraid to let us vote on it?”
Cover photo: Google images