Biden clears path for campaign staff to organize union
By BILL BARROW Associated Press
May 09, 2019 09:53 AM
Former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, left, waves toward members of the media as he and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti leave King Taco after talking to patrons Wednesday, May 8, 2019, in Los Angeles.
Jae C. Hong
Former Vice President Joe Biden kicked off his 2020 presidential campaign declaring himself “a union man,” and his aides say he would welcome staffers organizing a bargaining unit.
But Biden’s team also believes the work environment he’s offering is good enough to prevent any push for a union.
“We are confident that the work environment, pay and benefits will meet the standards that a union would normally have to bargain for,” said Biden spokesman TJ Ducklo. “But, of course, if staff decided they wanted to unionize, the vice president would welcome it.”
Labor-friendly Democratic presidential candidates are under growing pressure to match their campaign rhetoric with action. About 100 staffers on Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign ratified a union contract on Wednesday that includes a provision offering staffers 20 paid days off. It’s the first known instance of such organization in a presidential campaign and comes after his 2016 bid faced allegations of gender pay inequity and sexual harassment.
Ducklo said Biden has committed to a $15-an-hour minimum wage, as he has called for nationally. The current federal minimum hourly wage remains at $7.25. The campaign also is offering health insurance. Ducklo offered no details about Biden staffers’ premiums but said they are competitive within the campaign sector.
Biden launched his campaign with an explicit appeal to working-class union members and quickly won an endorsement from the International Association of Firefighters. But he could face a difficult balancing act as he courts organized labor voters.
As a senator and vice president, Biden was an unapologetic ally of organized labor. But he has also taken heat for a mixed record on international trade deals that many American unions have opposed, and he has deep relationships with some of the Democratic Party’s wealthiest donors, including those hailing from the corporate world.
Biden and Sanders aren’t the only candidates paying attention to their labor practices. Pete Buttigieg is moving to offer health insurance to his growing crew of campaign staffers — a benefit, NBC News reported on Thursday, that isn’t currently offered. Chris Meagher, a press secretary for the South Bend, Indiana, mayor noted that the campaign provides a $400 stipend for staffers to purchase insurance and also said its interns are paid.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker said on Thursday that his interns also are paid for their work. Other candidates either already paying their campaign interns or pledging to pay beyond what Booker and Buttigieg offer include Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former housing secretary Julian Castro, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan.
Associated Press writers Sara Burnett in Chicago and Elana Schor in Washington contributed to this report.
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