“We expect this will mean pay parity and transparency on the campaign, with no gender bias or harassment, and equal treatment for every worker, whether they’re in Washington, D.C., Iowa, New Hampshire or anywhere else,” UFCW Local 400 President Mark Federici said in a statement.
Sanders (I-Vt.) has faced questions about the way his 2016 campaign handled allegations of sexual misconduct. Asked if the effort to unionize was a response to that, Jonathan Williams, the communications director for UFCW Local 400, said it was not. A Sanders spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on that question.
The Sanders campaign applauded the move to unionize its members.
“We’re honored that his campaign will be the first to have a unionized workforce,” said Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir in a statement. The campaign said it helped pave the way for its workers to organize and did not require an election.
Political campaigns, built to last just months or couple of years, have rarely featured organized labor forces. In 2017, staffers for Wisconsin Democratic congressional candidate Randy Bryce organized with the Campaign Workers Guild. Bryce called it the first campaign to unionize “in the history of politics.”
Bryce said that his campaign saw no downsides to an organized staff.
“If there was any kind of sexual harassment going on, we had a third party for them to talk to,” he said. “We had a grievance procedure. We made sure people had money for health care.”
Many of the candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, including Sanders, have been competing to position themselves as champions for working class Americans. They have touted their support for an increased federal minium wage and other protections.
According to the Campaign Workers Guild, 23 other Democratic campaigns unionized in 2018. Most of the candidates lost, but Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) both recognized campaign worker unions on their way to November victories.
Former housing and urban development secretary Julián Castro announced in January that his presidential campaign would pay a $15 minimum wage and support staffers if they voted to organize. They had yet to organize by the time the Sanders campaign made its announcement.