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DNC Voluntarily Recognizes Staff Union

Workers at the Democratic National Committee will now be members of SEIU Local 500

Brian Young's picture
Aug 03, 2021

Staff members at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) are the latest workers to organize after committee officials agreed to voluntarily recognize their union. The employees will be represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500 which represents public sector workers in the DC and Maryland area.

About 150 employees will be a part of the bargaining unit, although specifics are still being negotiated since many workers at varying levels hold some managerial responsibilities. The NY Times is reporting that a majority of the eligible staff signed authorization cards saying that they wanted to form a union, although the organizing push already had the support of the DNC’s Executive Director Sam Cornale, and Mary Beth Cahill, a senior adviser and former chief executive of the committee. A union can be formed through voluntary recognition, where the employees' sign cards indicating they want to join a union and the bosses accept those, or through a union vote where the employees file the cards with the NLRB and then hold an election. Voluntary recognition, also known as card check, is preferred by unions since it starts the relationship between the workers and bosses on a conciliatory note.

“The D.N.C. has the ability to be a really powerful agent of positive change for working Americans, and we think this is an opportunity for us to really live those values,” said Christen Sparago, who manages monthly donors for the committee and helped lead the unionization effort.

The push to organize campaign workers and political workers at local, state, and national committees has picked up in recent years. In March of 2019, Senator Bernie Sanders's staff became the first major-party presidential campaign to organize, and they were followed by numerous other campaigns both running for President and other lower offices. Even President Joe Biden’s field staff organized and ratified a contract during the campaign.

Unlike campaigns though, the DNC has a more permanent workforce that sticks around through campaign seasons instead of being laid off at the end of a campaign. With the DNC being a more traditional workplace, issues like vacation days, health care, parental leave, are likely to be the focus of negotiations.

“We have a very wide age range of staffers working at the committee,” Sparago said. “A lot of folks who work here want to make a career of this and have sustainable infrastructure at the workplace.”

“The D.N.C.’s employees are smart, diverse, resilient, and inspirational, and I am honored to lead this team in our critical work to elect Democrats,” Cornale said. “As the D.N.C. told S.E.I.U., if a majority of D.N.C. employees in a mutually agreed-upon bargaining unit express their desire to form a union, we will be proud to voluntarily recognize that union.”


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