Hourly Workers Not Represented in Warren Campaign Management

Sen. Elizabeth Warren / Getty

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) does not have hourly workers represented in the management team for her 2020 presidential campaign.

The top decision-makers on her staff, such as campaign manager Roger Lau, senior adviser for organizing Tracey Lewis, and senior policy director Jon Donenberg, are not rank-and-file grunts but experienced political hands. So are her directors in the early-primary and caucus states Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.

Warren's campaign practices fly in the face of her past work to resolve what she has called "a fundamental problem with our economy," the lack of systematic representation of workers in decision-making about corporate governance.

Last August, just months before she began her presidential campaign, Warren introduced the Accountable Capitalism Act, a proposal to overhaul the laws governing corporations and who has power over them. The bill was designed to push back against "shareholder value" theory, the idea that the primary imperative of a corporation should be to create value for shareholders, as opposed to society at large.

Among other proposed changes, the ACA stipulates that the board of directors of any firm with more than $1 billion in gross annual receipts must be composed of at least 40 percent officers elected directly by employees. These corporations would be further constrained by the requirement that any political expenditures they make must be approved by 75 percent of shareholders and 75 percent of board members—effectively handing a veto over political expenditures to labor and by extension labor unions.

Of course, Warren's campaign is not a corporation grossing $1 billion annually. But the section of the ACA which gives workers a vote is explicitly built on a broader principle, adapted from German corporate governance, called "co-determination." Under German law, workers at firms with over 2,000 workers elect roughly half the board; at firms with 500 to 2,000 workers, they elect one-third. And any company with more than five workers can organize a "works council," which has extensive co-decision rights over labor issues including schedules, overtime, and holiday policy.

Warren's campaign, BuzzFeed recently reported, is the largest in the field, with more than 170 people on staff. It plans to continue growing. If Warren becomes the Democratic nominee for president, her campaign will have to raise more than a billion dollars, and employ hundreds of people, in order to be viable.

Warren did support her campaign's decision to unionize last week under the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 232. While she still trails frontrunner Joe Biden in early polling, she has established herself in the top tier of the crowded 2020 Democratic field.

The Warren campaign did not respond to request for comment as to whether non-management-level employees on the campaign could vote on or otherwise select top-level management or decision-makers.