Political campaign workers, as NPR wrote in April, work “long hours at low pay, living off of pizza and coffee, all in the hope of seeing their candidate win.” The Campaign Workers Guild, the first union for campaign staff, was founded in 2017 to advocate for better working conditions. Now, as revelations of abuse emerge from multiple corners of politics, campaign workers and current political staffers are demanding that fighting sexual harassment be added to that list.
As Politico reported Monday, over two dozen male and female members of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign staff signed a letter requesting a meeting with the Vermont senator and his top advisers to “discuss the issue of sexual violence and harassment on the 2016 campaign, for the purpose of planning to mitigate the issue in the upcoming presidential cycle.” The authors added that discussions had been underway among former staffers for a few weeks “about the untenable and dangerous dynamic that developed during our campaign.”
They requested an in-person meeting that includes 2016 campaign manager Jeff Weaver, among other current and former top advisers.
Signees requested “implementing concrete sexual harassment policies and procedures and a commitment to hiring diverse leadership to pre-empt the possibility of replicating the predatory culture from the first presidential campaign” on the staff if Sanders chooses to run again.
Staff members emphasized to Politico that the issues addressed were not unique to the Sanders campaign but part of a broader, systemic problem of toxic masculinity in politics. As The Washington Post reported in April, nine members of Congress had lost their jobs in the previous six months because of sexual harassment allegations. Three of them left in the same week. This month, both houses passed bills requiring that members of Congress pay for sexual harassment settlements rather than rely on taxpayer dollars.
Politico writes the former Sanders staffers “stressed that they hoped their letter would not be reduced to reinforcing the ‘Bernie Bro’ caricature but rather would be part of a larger reckoning among people who run campaigns.”
They signed the letter not to attack Sanders specifically, but, as Politico writes, “in the hope that it would lead to real action if and when the senator begins assembling his team.”
Representatives from Friends of Bernie Sanders, the senator’s main campaign committee, confirmed to Politico they received the letter. “We thank the signers of the letter for their willingness to engage in this incredibly important discussion,” they said in a statement, adding, “We always welcome hearing the experiences and views of our former staff. We also value their right to come to us in a private way so their confidences and privacy are respected. And we will honor this principle with respect to this private letter.”
Read the full letter here.