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Biden to Use Unionized 2024 Staff      03/23 06:02

   Joe Biden likes to say he's the most pro-union president in U.S. history. 
When he announces his expected reelection campaign in the coming weeks, he'll 
get the chance to prove it to his own staffers.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Joe Biden likes to say he's the most pro-union president 
in U.S. history. When he announces his expected reelection campaign in the 
coming weeks, he'll get the chance to prove it to his own staffers.

   Workers on his 2024 campaign will be unionized, political allies say, making 
him the first president to run a reelection campaign with staff represented by 
a union. That means hammering out a collectively bargained agreement that could 
establish salary minimums, set work hours and offer overtime pay, among other 
things, easing the demands on a workforce that has historically been required 
to put in long hours for meager pay and guaranteed joblessness after Election 

   The move allows Biden to further demonstrate to his base just how deep his 
pro-labor convictions are, providing a strong contrast with his Republican 
opponents, whose staffers aren't likely to embrace unionizing. It also means 
extra work for those at the top of Biden's campaign to negotiate a contract and 
could present financial and workforce constraints, but union organizers and 
Democratic operatives insist that having a unionized staff would only make 
Biden's 2024 bid stronger.

   "The marquee name, the person who's running, wants the cred for being 
union," said Janice Fine, a Rutgers University professor of labor studies and 
employment relations and director of the workplace justice lab@RU. "But the 
people who are running the campaign are going to have more trepidation because 
they know what it takes to actually lift up a campaign."

   It's not unprecedented for a presidential campaign to be unionized, though 
Biden's would be the largest unionized workforce by far. Democratic White House 
candidates Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Julin Castro had unionized 
campaign staffs in 2020. Even Biden's campaign unionized after clinching that 
year's Democratic nomination. The Democratic National Committee's staff is also 

   Former President Donald Trump's 2024 campaign staff hasn't unionized. The 
staffs of top Republicans thought to be readying presidential runs, including 
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, probably won't, either.

   "In the old days, there were definitely Republicans who were pro-union," 
Fine said. "But not now."

   Biden's 2020 campaign only unionized that May, when it reached an agreement 
with field organizers represented by the Iowa-based Teamsters Local 238. As 
entry-level campaign employees, field staffers are often dispatched to 
different states. Their agreement established a six-day workweek, a 
$15-per-hour minimum wage and overtime for working more than 40 hours weekly.

   This time, Biden's campaign will unionize earlier in the process and may 
face pressure to apply the contract to more staffers, including some at its 
headquarters, given that the president's administration has launched efforts to 
increase labor organization membership nationwide. Biden has hosted union 
organizers in the Oval Office, and the White House is paying interns for the 
first time since the 1970s.

   "I told you I was going to be the most pro-union president in history," 
Biden said recently. "And I've kept my promise."

   Biden is expected to announce a reelection campaign as soon as next month, 
after the first-quarter fundraising period concludes at the end of March.

   A top adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to more freely 
discuss a reelection campaign that hasn't yet formally begun, said the 
campaign's 2020 union contract won't really be applicable to any contract the 
reelection campaign reaches for 2024. That's because the division of labor is 
vastly different for staffers on a sitting president's reelection campaign 
compared with the campaign of a candidate clinching a contested primary.

   Most reelection campaign staffers will work for different state Democratic 
parties around the country and have their own union contracts with them. Or 
they will be DNC staffers covered by the committee's own union agreement, the 
adviser said. Some 2024 national campaign staffers will be covered under a new 
union contract, but it may not apply to many working at headquarters who are 
part of management, the adviser said, adding that the scope of who would be 
covered under a union contract is among the questions that will be sorted out 
once the campaign formally launches.

   The Biden adviser said that the reelection campaign would start with a 
relatively small staff that grows over time and that it will begin work before 
a union contract has been reached.

   While acknowledging that unionization is still a requirement for Democratic 
campaigns that Republican ones do not have to worry about, the adviser said 
Biden's reelection campaign expects to be able to take having a unionized 
workforce "in stride" and reach an agreement that properly supports staffers 
and lives up to the president's pro-labor beliefs.

   Outside Biden's inner political circle, however, expectations will be higher.

   Unionizing by Democratic campaigns up and down the ballot goes far beyond 
the president, having become far more common in recent cycles -- especially 
last fall's midterms. Taylor Billings, organizing director for the Campaign 
Workers Guild, said her union has represented workers from more than 60 
political firms and campaigns since its founding in 2017.

   The guild has won negotiated benefits including bonuses for election wins, 
severance pay and health care coverage that extends past Election Day. Some 
past discussions have focused on things as basic as having running water in 
workspaces, Billings said.

   She said some ardent supporters have disparaged the idea of a top 
candidate's campaign unionizing, with the fear being that it will make it 
tougher to win elections -- a dynamic she said is likely to intensify in a 
presidential race.

   "It makes the pretty common talking point of 'Do nothing to sabotage the 
race' more seductive, although it's not more true," Billings said. "The reality 
is that presidential campaign workers are in a pretty unique position to make 
the lives of many workers on the campaign much better and set a standard for 
the industry."

   Faiz Shakir, Sanders' 2020 campaign manager, oversaw a staff of 1,200 across 
the country by January of that year, represented by the United Food & 
Commercial Workers Local 400. He said most employees routinely worked five days 
a week early in the campaign, then shifted to six- and seven-day workweeks as 
the primary progressed -- all of which were part of the contact.

   "The discourse around unionized work environments, there's this mythology 
that you are a five-day workweek, 40-hours-a-week worker," Shakir said. "But if 
you look at a lot of union contracts, they allow and build in the need for 
labor to be extended beyond normal work hours."

   Warren's 2020 campaign contract calculated 60-hour workweeks. The Sanders 
campaign contract dictated that staffers working eight hours or more got two 
15-minute breaks and a 30-minute paid lunch period.

   Sanders staffers working 12 hours or more got four 15-minute breaks and a 
30-minute lunchbreak. Anyone working 16 consecutive hours would get a 12-hour 
rest period before starting again. It also gave staffers the right to request 
time off "blackout days" of up to three days in a row, though such requests 
were limited as big elections approached, Shakir said.

   Despite that, some Sanders campaign staffers complained that they weren't 
paid the $15 per hour the candidate was pushing to mandate nationwide. Shakir 
said managers of other Democratic presidential campaigns nonetheless asked to 
see the Sanders contract so they'd have a better understanding of what to 
expect when their own staffs embraced unionization.

   "As a pro-union campaign, we believed that, if you do this the right way, 
the campaign's going to be stronger as a result," Shakir said. "Because the 
staff feel like you haven't been burned out, you have rights."

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