DemDaily: DNC Unionizes Amid Resurgence in Labor Movement

January 7, 2021

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is now a union shop.

On January 4th, the staff at the DNC in its national headquarters in Washington, DC, voted overwhelming to join Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local #500.

While unionization efforts historically stem from workplace disputes, the election was conducted with the full support of DNC leadership.

In a joint statement released by management and staff, DNC Executive Director Sam Cornale said the party was proud to voluntarily recognize SEIU Local 500. "The DNC is strong and only getting stronger because of our smart, diverse, and resilient staff. I am inspired by the incredible DNC team, and that’s especially true today as they live the values we hold dear as Democrats.”

“Throughout this process, our aim has been not only to improve the lives of current and future staff at the DNC, but to ensure our staff, no matter where they live, are protected and given the resources they need to thrive in their careers and succeed in our mission to elect Democrats up and down the ballot...We thank Chair Harrison and DNC leadership for their vocal support of collective bargaining rights both inside and outside of the DNC Headquarters.” -- DNC Staffer and Union Leader Alison Goh

Unlike in a typical union election administered by the National Labor Relations Board, staffers and management agreed to have an independent outside observer count the votes, selecting former Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD), who is also a political analyst for NBC News and MSNBC.

SEIU Local 500, which already represents public-sector employees of several progressive non-profits in Maryland, Virginia, and DC, is the fastest-growing union in the greater DC metro area. A select committee of staff will work with management to draft the first contract.

While this is the first union bargaining unit among national staff, there has been a surge in unionizing Democratic state parties in recent years. In 2018, the Vermont Democratic Party, affiliated with the United Steelworkers Union, became the first unionized political party in the country. There are now close to 20 state Democratic parties that have collective bargaining agreements, represented by the Teamsters, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and other unions.

In 2019, Bernie Sanders' staff became the first presidential campaign to unionize, affiliating with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400.

The Biden campaign followed suit, joining Teamsters Local 238, and the staff of other candidates, including Andrew Yang, Julian Castro and Elizabeth Warren, also unionized.

The Campaign Workers Guild (CWG), formed in 2018 as the first labor organization founded specifically to organize political campaign workers, has organized dozens of campaigns and organizations, along with four state parties.

Despite a historically dwindling membership, union sentiment is at a generational high in the US. An August 2-17, 2021 Gallup Poll showed Americans' approval of labor unions at 68%, the highest since 1965.

Although just 10.8% of the workforce in 2020, the labor movement has witnessed a recent resurgence in organizing efforts, in part due to the pandemic.

The subsequent shortage in the labor market and the supply chain crisis have emboldened workers to exercise newly found leverage to negotiate for better wages and working conditions.

President Biden, a long-time ally of organized labor, is also pushing for significant labor law reform in the wake of setbacks under the Trump administration. In March, the US House passed the “PRO Act,” a sweeping overhaul of federal labor law designed to invigorate unions by making it easier to organize and harder for state laws to inhibit unions. The law has been blocked in the US Senate, however, without the 60 votes necessary to break the filibuster.

Related
DemDaily: The New Labor Movement? 12/14/21
DemDaily: Striketober 10/20/21
DemDaily: Confronting the Supply Chain Crisis 10/18/21
DemDaily: Shutting Down Hollywood 10/6/21
DemDaily: Protecting The Right To Organize 3/17/21

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Kimberly Scott
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Sources: DNC, NPR, NBC, Washington Post, Wyofile.com, US Labor Statistics

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