Congressional candidate and alum unionizes campaign staff

Wednesday, February 14, 2018 - 10:09pm

Dan Haberman, one of the eight candidates for Michigan’s 11th Congressional District seat, and University of Michigan alumnus, has made the decision to unionize his campaign staff.

Dan Haberman, one of the eight candidates for Michigan’s 11th Congressional District seat, and University of Michigan alumnus, has made the decision to unionize his campaign staff. Buy this photo
Alexis Rankin/Daily

Dan Haberman, one of the 11 candidates for Michigan’s 11th Congressional District seat and University of Michigan alum, has made the decision to unionize his campaign staff. 

Haberman, who received his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University, is a businessman, lawyer and Democrat from Birmingham running to replace the seat vacated by former U.S. Rep. Dave Trott, R-Birmingham. Democrats hope to claim another U.S. congressional seat despite the district’s Republican-leaning history.

Now, Haberman is unionizing his staff in a move that he says symbolizes his commitment to workers’ rights.

“I believe that it is important to protect all Michigan workers. It’s not always convenient, but it’s the right thing to do. Our representatives in Congress are sent there to represent and protect the people they represent and to take action,” he said. 

His Democratic opponents include Haley Stevens, the former chief of staff for an auto task force led by former President Barack Obama, and Fayrouz Saad, former director of Detroit’s immigrant affairs who would be the first Muslim woman in Congress if elected.

This decision comes the same week that Randy Bryce, a Wisconsin Democrat running for the seat of House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., announced he would unionize his own campaign staff. Bryce said his campaign’s contract is the first collective bargaining contract by campaign workers — Haberman’s is the first such congressional campaign in Michigan.

“The more folks we can help stay in the field, the better off the Democratic Party and the progressive movement will be,” Meg Reilly, vice president of the Campaign Workers Guild, said to the Huffington Post.

Though U.S. unionization was at a record low of 10.7 percent for the year, non-technical services saw an increase of 90,000 in union members, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

The Campaign Workers Guild is looking to further increase non-technical union workers by targeting young campaign workers who are usually short-term and sometimes unpaid. According to Bloomberg, the CWG aims for a collective bargaining agreement that would apply to all Democratic campaigns for all government sectors.

Janice Fine, Rutgers University labor studies professor, has worked on both local and national election campaigns.  She is supportive of the CWG goals because workers often overexert themselves without sufficient compensation.

“There’s no question that it’s exploitative work,” Fine said to Bloomberg. “It’s premised on the idea that young people will work 24-7 in a selfless – and often dangerously selfless – way, and that culture has been passed on for generations.”

Haberman agreed and said as a Democrat, it is his job to protect and “champion” the rights of workers.

“My staff had heard about the formation of the new Campaign Workers Guild and brought it to my attention," he said. "They expressed a desire to send a message that we stand in solidarity with campaign workers who dedicate their careers to promoting progressive values at all levels of government. For me, this was the right thing to do,” he said. 

However, many of the low-paid and non-paid staffers are often student interns. As of right now, Haberman said he is unsure if they will benefit from this change.

“The campaign is working with the CWG to determine if any, changes or effects this will have on those students who are in our fellowship program. It is our understanding that the unionization will only affect full-time staff of the campaign.”