It’s on US to press presidential candidates to unionize their campaigns


There are currently 23 Democratic presidential candidates (yeesh) for the November 2020 election and things are starting to heat up. Nineteen of those candidates visited Iowa recently in an effort to coax voters into jumping on their bandwagon, highlighting some of their most popular policy stances and sharing their personal stories. Soon enough, these candidates will come flocking to Michigan to do the same. In preparation, Michiganders must start contemplating their priorities in a presidential candidate. And that goes for voters in other states, too.

We know that Michigan and the Midwest region in general has a strong history of fighting for unionization and labor rights. We know that one of the first major protests in the country demanding fair wages and time off for workers at automation plants took place in Flint in the 1930s. Michigan is home to a sincere dedication to uplifting the American worker.

But our rights to collective bargaining and a healthy life for our families is at stake. Earlier this year, GM announced that it would be closing multiple plants and planned to lay off over 14,000 workers. Trump’s disastrous trade policies and tariffs against China and (maybe yes maybe not) Mexico have significant negative impacts on Michigan workers. Families are going to suffer and many of our lawmakers and legislators seem not to care.

So when these presidential candidates visit us in the coming months, they will be tailoring their messages to what makes us tick. They’ll be talking about the importance of making sure that families can put food on the table, how people should have to work no more than one job to live a quality life, and how corporations are making profit off the backs of the everyday American. That’s all good and important. All these points pass the litmus test for most Democratic voters (and even many Republicans).

But these talking points mean absolutely nothing if these candidates are not planning to allow their campaign staff to unionize. It is somewhat ironic to fight for unions once you are elected but to refuse to allow people to work for you under decent conditions while you are campaigning. Currently, there are only 4 Democratic candidates who have actively taken steps to allow the unionization of staff: Bernie Sanders, Julian Castro, Elizabeth Warren, and Eric Swalwell. Unionization should be the new standard without question, especially for presidential candidates who run a nationwide operation.

Campaign environments and lifestyles are quite hectic and unpredictable and require a person to be working constantly. So, at first glance it may seem that unionization is impractical and will put candidates behind those candidates who don’t unionize. But it’s really not that complicated: “Rather than strictly defining the work day, we sort of inverted that and put a lot of effort into defining time off. And so people would not be disincentivized from taking time off when they need it,” said Jonathan Williams, the communications director for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400, the union representing the Sanders’ campaign.”

There’s no excuse for candidates not to be unionizing. It’s possible and, if there are four already doing it, then the others can, as well. So when you’re listening to the debates and meeting with candidates, make sure you take this important factor into consideration for why you prefer one candidate over another. Pressure candidates to do the same if you get a chance to talk to them or their staff. They have to walk the walk to win our vote this time.