Political campaigns are typically high-stress work environments. Staffers often work long hours with little pay for months, and there's always a chance that the boss won't win on Election Day.
Workers for state Rep. David Richardson's congressional campaign are the latest to form a union through the Campaign Workers guild, a new movement for Democratic campaign workers, where employees negotiate contracts that include mandated time off, healthcare, housing, and just cause for firings.
Richardson's is the first Florida campaign to unionize, other Democratic congressional and gubernatorial campaigns have unionized around the country in recent months.
“Through a tough contract fight, workers for David Richardson stood together and fought hard to win a fair contract,” said Laura Reimers, President of the Campaign Workers Guild. “I am tremendously proud to have all of these workers in our fight. Their example will pave the way for campaign workers across the country who are finally getting to experience what it feels like to bargain collectively, stand together, and improve their working conditions.”
While most Democrats running for office support organized labor, this election cycle is the first where the campaigns themselves have organized. Opponents of the unionization effort argue that campaign work is meant to be temporary, and hamstringing a campaign worker's hours on the job makes it harder to use resources efficiently and gives an advantage to Republicans who are running campaigns without unionized workers.
"Political campaigns are short-term gigs. They're not long-term operations, so this idea of unionization for an eight-month job, it just doesn't make a lot of sense," said Steve Hildebrand, a former deputy national campaign manager for Barack Obama to NPR. "Going into the general election if you have a campaign team that is not putting in 80 hours a week on the Democratic side, you're probably going to lose."
But a Richardson staffer argued that the unionization effort extends the rights their campaign is fighting for to the people getting paid to fight it.
“We fought tooth and nail for this contract, and we couldn’t be prouder.” said Melissa Mihm, field organizer for David Richardson for Congress. “As the first campaign to unionize in Florida, I can’t say this enough: Don’t give up. Campaign workers deserve the same rights as all workers, and it’s our turn to make history.”
Richardson is running in the Democratic primary to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Former University of Miami President Donna Shalala, former Knight Foundation director Matt Haggman, Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and former University of Miami academic adviser Michael Hepburn are also running for a seat that Democrats are expecting to flip in 2018.