Why did you form a union?

As campaign workers on one of the largest Democratic coordinated campaigns in the country, we, like hundreds of campaign workers across the country, are underpaid and overworked. The campaign industry is an exploitative industry that relies upon hiring a highly motivated, mostly young workforce, and then burning us out. Most of us will only organize professionally for one election because of the lack of stability, extreme hours, and general disrespect. We formed a union because we believe we deserve fair pay and conditions conducive to work. We know that the way for workers to achieve this is through unions and collective bargaining. In addition, we believe that unionized campaigns are a necessary next step as the Democratic Party seeks to deepen it’s support of working people. We are proud to be leading this industry revolutionizing charge.


Who does your union cover?

We are a union of non-supervisory field and organizing staff - Organizers and Regional Field Directors - on the Ohio Democratic coordinated campaign, also known as the Campaign for Ohio. We are the people working to re-elect Sherrod Brown to US Senate, elect Rich Cordray for Governor, and bring wins for Democrats up and down the ballot on November 6.


CWG is a new union. Do you know what you’re doing?

Yes, we know what we’re doing: we are joining with our coworkers and negotiating an agreement with management to ensure we are protected and provided what we deserve at work. We believe that what qualifies us isn’t law degrees or years of experience at bargaining tables: those are nice, but what qualifies us to know what they’re doing in our union is being workers ourselves, being willing to listen to our co-workers’ needs, and being willing to fight. As workers in a non-traditional industry that relies on an entry-level, temporary workplace, we are proud to join together and be guided from our experiences to win contracts that make our jobs and lives better and our careers more
sustainable.


Isn’t it great that ODP gave you union recognition in the first place?

We are glad that ODP saw the wisdom of recognizing our union, which formed with 90% support. We do not think any bosses, including the Ohio Democratic Party, should get to pat themselves on the back simply for recognizing their employees’ union, which in our mind as workers, Democrats, and union members, is a pretty basically decent thing to do.

 

Negotiations for a first contract can take a while. Why the rush?

We’re members of a non-traditional, temporary workforce that is employed through the November 6 election. A reasonable time frame looks different for us than it does in a permanent workplace. At this point, we’ve had 8 bargaining sessions, most of them a day long, and are down to some key issues
where we remain far apart. We’ve given ODP plenty of time to work through issues of us, and
we’ve made lots of progress. The problem now is that ODP is unwilling to give us the fair
contract we deserve.


Are you upset that ODP hired lawyers?

No, but we are upset and disappointed that ODP hired professional union-busters. Let’s be clear: labor attorneys who work exclusively for management and specialize in “union avoidance” are not simply attorneys, they are attorneys who build their careers fighting working people and their unions. Conor Meeks, lead negotiator for ODP, and Kerry Hastings, the partner advising him, build their careers fighting against working people and their unions. These attorneys are not workers’ friends, and we don’t think they should be the friends of Democrats, either. Ultimately though, these lawyers have to listen to their clients. At any point, ODP Chair David Pepper can tell them to agree to a fair contract.


You say a Republican from Kentucky is leading negotiations, but ODP says it’s a Columbus Democrat. What’s up with that?

ODP has lied to the Columbus Dispatch, the Toledo Blade, and many other people claiming that Mike Mentel, a Democrat from Columbus, is their lead negotiator, or lead spokesperson. In reality, Conor Meeks is running the table. This was established on August 14, when we executed our ground rules.


Don’t you worry this could hurt Democrats?

We deeply care about Democrats winning in November: that’s why we’ve been working tirelessly to elect Democratic candidates. What really hurts Democrats is running exploitative field programs that burn out talented organizers and push them out of the field. If ODP is serious about addressing this issue and winning in November, we’d suggest they invest in their strongest asset, human capital, and give us a fair contract.


What are you stuck on in negotiations?

We have core disagreements on compensation and expense reimbursement. ODP is proposing a salary for organizers that, when taking into account hours, starts at $10.47 and dwindles to $8.62 by Election Day. They’re proposing a car allowance for organizers that would cover less than 25% of average employee mileage expenses, calculated at the IRS rate. Being underpaid and required to pay to work isn’t what we deserve, and it doesn’t live up to Democratic values. Additionally, ODP is asking us to sign away our rights to enforce claims of discrimination and other employment claims. 


ODP is offering a 5% raise on your current salary. Isn’t that pretty good?

Ohio field organizers are paid the same today as we were in 2016. The 5% raise proposed by ODP is barely more than a cost of living adjustment over 2016 rates. When accounting for the number of hours worked, the salary proposed by ODP still equates to less than the living wage in Ohio. This offer asks our workers to accept much lower standards of pay than Ohio candidates propose in their platforms. This industry has been underpaying for years, and now is the time to start paying fairly.


Can ODP afford all this?

Yes. ODP’s stated position is that they’re offering these proposals because they think they’re fair, and market rate, and all we deserve - not because they can’t afford more.


I heard from ODP that you’re stuck on small, unconventionAl issues, like ensuring that
offices have particular supplies. What’s that about?

We asked for our offices to have particular supplies because many of our offices do not have basic, necessary supplies for us to do our jobs. If this is an unconventional issue to bring to the table, that is because we have unconventional problems. Many of us have not had access in our offices to basic supplies we need, like available clean water. Fortunately, we were able to reach agreement on this article.


Why won’t you commit to arbitration and a no-strike clause? Aren’t those pretty
conventional?

Arbitration is a drawn out, bureaucratic process that frequently takes months to complete. That is not practical or reasonable in time frame on which we, as campaign workers, work. While many unions have preferred to have arbitration, and have traded no-strike clauses for arbitration in their contracts, we don’t think arbitration will serve the needs of us and our co-workers as we enforce our contract. Similarly, we’re hesitant to sign away our right to strike.


Do you think ODP should help pay for your car?

To work as field staff on the Campaign for Ohio, you have to own a car. ODP’s proposal of $125 per month does not come close to meeting standards for mileage reimbursement, let alone supporting us in the ownership of our car. On average, each of us drives around 1,000 miles for work each month, with many of us driving regularly across large swaths of the state. We’re asking ODP to appropriately support us in this cost so we’re not required to pay to work. Every cycle, talented organizers are unable to work on Democratic campaigns because of car expenses, and we think it’s a justice issue that ODP
supports us adequately in the costs of having a vehicle to work.


When are you back at the table, and how can I support?

We’re back to the table for negotiations Thursday, September 12. You can support us by getting out the word about our fight for a fair contract, including supporting us on social media (#FairContractODP). Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at info@campaignworkersguild.org for general inquiries or offers of support, or press@campaignworkersguild.org for press inquiries.