* Updated 7:16 p.m. ET, March 15, 2019, with quotes from campaign staff. *
Jonathan Williams, Communications Director, UFCW Local 400
First U.S. Presidential Campaign in History to Be Organized
WASHINGTON, D.C., March 15 — Workers on the Bernie Sanders Campaign today made themselves the first presidential campaign employees in history to win union representation, as a majority signed cards joining United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400.
This victory resulted from the Bernie 2020 Campaign’s decision to stay neutral in the employees’ organizing drive and its agreement to recognize UFCW Local 400 when a majority of workers signed union cards. As a result, all campaign employees below the rank of deputy director are now represented by UFCW Local 400 and negotiations for their first collective bargaining agreement will begin as soon as possible.
“Our union makes this campaign strong, and its workers even stronger,” said John Marzabadi, a current campaign staffer in the D.C. office and former UFCW Local 262 member. “I’m excited to be part of this historic, pro-worker campaign and encourage other campaigns to organize as well!”
“I come from working class family with a single mom. Union membership goes back to my great grandfather who worked on the Altoona railroad his entire life. He never finished high school, but because of the union, he was able to provide for his family. For myself to finally have the chance to be in a union is a true blessing,” said Julia Griffin, who works on the campaign’s communications and digital team. “It’s really beautiful to have such solidarity with folks from all different backgrounds and job roles. When workers organize we all benefit, and I can’t wait to see how the campaign benefits from this as well.”
“Today, we made history and did what no other presidential campaign has done before. We are so proud to join Local 400 alongside our union brothers and sisters in the struggle for security, justice and dignity,” said Christian Bowe, a campaign staff member who works on digital communications. “Senator Sanders has been fighting for workers unlike anyone in American politics for his entire life and our campaign is committed to leading the effort to revitalize, grow and empower the labor movement like none other and that begins with our own workers. Together, we are building an unprecedented and historic grassroots campaign that will not only defeat union busters like Donald Trump but transform this country to work for all of us.”
On February 26th, the Bernie 2020 Campaign and UFCW Local 400 signed a card check and neutrality agreement. By March 15th, a majority of the campaign’s 44 bargaining unit-eligible employees had signed union cards — counted and certified by Rabbi Elizabeth Richman, Deputy Director and Rabbi in Residence at Jews United for Justice, as designated by the agreement — triggering recognition and a countdown to the launch of negotiations. Over the course of the campaign, the bargaining unit could potentially grow to more than 1,000 members.
“First, I want to congratulate the Bernie 2020 campaign workers for making history and empowering themselves to improve their pay, benefits and working conditions with a strong voice in the workplace,” said UFCW Local 400 President Mark P. Federici. “I also congratulate Senator Sanders for not only talking the talk but actually walking the walk when it comes to his commitment to uphold the right of every worker to bargain collectively.
“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,” he said.
“I hope this breakthrough serves as a model for other presidential campaigns, as well as party committees and candidates for other offices,” Federici added. “While political campaigns aren’t the easiest work environment, every worker has the right to respect and dignity. And when candidates who claim to support the labor movement practice what they preach, that sends a powerful message that, if elected, they will deliver on their promises to strengthen union rights and level the playing field between workers and employers.”
While this is the first presidential campaign to organize, the 2018 candidacy of Randy Bryce (D) is believed to be the first federal electoral campaign to achieve union representation. Employees of the Vermont and Idaho Democratic parties are also unionized, among others.
While this is the first political campaign represented by UFCW Local 400, the union represents a wide variety of employees in a diverse array of fields, ranging from grocery store clerks to nurses, from retail and food processing workers to police officers. The Local’s reputation for effective, tenacious and professional representation, and its strategy of empowering members was cited by Sanders campaign workers as the reason why they chose to affiliate.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 represents 35,000 members working in the retail food, health care, retail department store, food processing, service and other industries in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.