#CampaignStaff

In campaign life, there are various components that I find are necessary to have a successful campaign. First and foremost: A reason to run. Running for the sake of running, or because you just really want to be in elective office, typically isn't enough. You have to have an agenda, and a plan to enact that agenda. 

The ability to convey your thoughts on issues is also vital. Communication is key, and requires the ability to listen, to hear the question, and to provide a responsive answer. 

It's also helpful to have a base. For some folks, that's Labor, others it's the LGBTQ community, some people rely on the business community, and other fall back on social justice leaders. This can admittedly take time to build, but having support from as many communities and leaders as possible before jumping into an election makes things a lot easier. 

Then there's the consultants. A general consultant, a fundraising consultant, and sometimes a messaging consultant. People to help craft a message that can sell (that's what politics is, after all - sell, sell, sell), who can design a lit piece, put together a mail plan, and craft a digital media plan. And, of course, a treasurer to make sure you're not breaking the law.

Personally, I think it's also good to have a steering committee and/or some policy wonks grouped together to help on strengthening and scrutinizing policy areas for a candidate. (Confession: these are my favorite things to be on).

But the most important piece to any campaign - the staff. A Campaign Manager, maybe a field director and, if you have the money, some additional organizers. Often, these are the people who do the most work. Making sure the candidate (or, for ballot measures, speakers) is where they need to be when they need to be there, that supporters have the things they need to canvass, pulling call lists, setting up doorbell days and phone banks. 

Good staff will be working closely with allies and supporters on their schedules, making sure that supporters are happy, stay happy, and continue to provide support to the campaign. When a candidate can't make it to an event, and there isn't a surrogate available, the staff are the ones who answer questions, present on why the candidate is the best candidate, and take the verbal lashing from folks who don't care for the candidate (especially if it's an incumbent). 

Campaign staff are up in the morning preparing for the day, and then out with the candidate (or in place of the candidate) through the evening, plus all-day on weekends. And as the campaign wears on, campaign staff (especially CMs) can become the most trusted adviser to a candidate, as well as a confidante for dumping all of the bullshit that you get while campaigning for office. 

We often don't think that much about campaign staff. In fact, it's not uncommon to treat it like an entry into politics - but the worst possible kind. Easily 70+ hour workweeks - with no weekends or vacation - for months on end. Sick days are not an option. 

Erica C. Barnett has been reporting on one candidate in Seattle posting a campaign job that, assuming a 40-hour work week, is offering organizing staff less than $15 per hour. It's noteworthy because this candidate has railed against companies under-paying employees, and worked as a campaign staffer on the minimum wage campaign in 2016. The question raised: should a candidate be exhibiting the values they proclaim in their hiring practices?

I eventually hired this joker to be my CM for the last couple months of my 2015 campaign. I paid what I could, but also was like, "Dude, take a day off!" He wasn't good at that.

I eventually hired this joker to be my CM for the last couple months of my 2015 campaign. I paid what I could, but also was like, "Dude, take a day off!" He wasn't good at that.

This has come up before with respect to the use of unpaid interns. In 2015, my campaign had no interns - because I knew I couldn't afford to pay them. In the primary, I did all of the campaign management duties, and had a team of volunteers helping with some of the GOTV work, but all of the scheduling continued to be through me. I couldn't pay someone a living wage, so I made the choice to do this extra work (on top of campaigning and working full time). Personally, I believe that if you are unable to pay a living wage, or have a clear expectation that people not work 60+ hour weeks, then you should do the job yourself. 

So what can we do, and what should we do, as a city to ensure that people are making a living wage - and that we treat campaign workers like people? For one, if taxpayer dollars are paying salaries of campaign staff (through Democracy Vouchers), then maybe a rule needs to be put in place with some minimum wage and maximum hour standards for participants in the program. Make a choice on how many staff you actually need to run a campaign, and how much you intend to spend on mail. I am a big supporter of publicly funded campaigns, but this is an issue I admittedly didn't consider, and perhaps it would be appropriate to begin addressing campaign staff salaries and hour standards in advance of the next round of district elections. 

But also - unionize that shit. People who are professional campaign staff and Labor should sit down and figure out what that looks like, what salary scales and benefit scales look like, and let's direct candidates who purport to be liberal to the Campaign Staff Union to find their managers and field directors - people with a pre-negotiated set of wage standards.

One thing that is clear: the current system is not benefiting workers. Campaign staff are, after all, workers, and often people working to improve our region. Having been on both sides - hiring staff in 2015, and being staff in 2016 - I do believe it is incumbent on candidates to set an example. But at the end of the day, candidates are employers. And the best way to ensure reasonable work hours, a living wage, and benefits, is through organizing. The real question - would enough candidates and people who staff campaigns be willing to support such a move, and which union would be the local to start this up? Because it's past time.