An upstart union aimed at organizing campaign workers has made inroads in Florida.
Staffers for Democratic state representative David Richardson's congressional campaign have joined the Campaign Workers Guild. Richardson, who is seeking to fill the seat of retiring Republican representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinan, is the 18th Democratic candidate in the country and the first in Florida to unionize in the 2018 election cycle. The movement appears to be growing.
"Through a tough contract fight, workers for David Richardson stood together and fought hard to win a fair contract," Guild president Laura Reimers said in a statement to Florida reporters. "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."
Staffers who supported the union said winning a contract with the Richardson campaign was a tough battle. His field organizer Melissa Mihm told the Miami Herald they had to fight "tooth and nail" to organize.
"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," Melissa Mihm told the Herald.
Neither the guild nor the Richardson campaign returned request for comment.
The guild has made hypocrisy a major selling point in their outreach to campaign staffs. The union maintains that Democratic candidates are guilty of hypocrisy if they praise organized labor in speeches and cash their campaign contributions without providing their own staffers with collective bargaining.
"Campaigns cannot fully fight for workers’ rights while they’re exploiting their own campaign staff," the guild says on its website. "Pro-labor candidates must hire unionized organizers; if they don't, they're not pro-labor."
Republican organizations are also attempting to use the guild as a wedge issue between Democratic candidates and one of the most influential portions of its base. The Republican Governors Association greeted the news of Richardson's unionization by asking whether other Democratic candidates would follow suit.
"If these candidates want to present themselves as pro-union, then they need to explain to voters why they refuse to put their principles into practice," the RGA said in a Wednesday email blast.
Not every campaign professional is convinced that campaign workers need to unionize. A veteran GOP campaign staffer said the plights of staffers pales in comparison to the hardships faced by laborers in the early 20th century when factory workers faced hazards beyond "paper cuts from canvassing sheets and damage to vocal cords from too many phone calls." He also said it would needlessly disrupt campaign activities in the closing days of a race.
"Campaigning is tough and stressful, but we've come a long way from the original intent of unions," he said.