Former Bernie Sanders staffer files charge alleging retaliation for union activities

Key Points
  • An unnamed individual filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign violated labor laws by firing employees for union activities.
  • The charge lists seven instances of unfair labor practices, including three accusations that Sanders' campaign fired employees for joining or supporting a union.
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2020 presidential candidate, listens during a Presidential Candidate Forum at the 110th NAACP Annual Convention in Detroit, July 24, 2019.
Anthony Lanzilote | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Although Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign just days ago settled a prolonged salary dispute with the union representing campaign staffers, its labor issues are not yet over.

An unnamed individual, who seems to be a former campaign staffer, filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board Monday alleging that the campaign committed labor law violations, including terminating employees for union activities.

The redacted NLRB charge posted by Bloomberg Law lists seven instances of unfair labor practices, including three accusations that Sanders' campaign fired employees for joining or supporting a union and one accusation that the campaign interrogated employees about union activities.

"Employer retaliated against me when I organized the bargaining unit," the individual alleges in the complaint.

The charge also alleges that the campaign did not tell the individual when hired that the campaign had a collective bargaining agreement and required workers to work additional time.

Sanders' campaign maintained his dedication to and support of union organizing.

"The campaign leadership, from Sen. Sanders on down, respects the rights of all of its employees to speak collectively and bargain about their terms and conditions of employment, and it supports the mission of the NLRB to enforce worker and union rights," the campaign said in a statement. "That is exactly why the Bernie 2020 campaign voluntarily recognized the employees' chosen union and engaged in good faith bargaining that resulted in an historic collective bargaining agreement."

The campaign said it could not comment on the specific charges the individual filed to avoid interfering with the NLRB process, but maintained there was no wrongdoing by the campaign.

"We are committed to cooperating with the NLRB and we are confident that they will find the campaign honors all of its employees' rights to both the letter and spirit of the law," the campaign said. "Sen. Sanders and the campaign believe all workers should have a strong voice on the job and the right to due process, including the right to petition to the NLRB."

NLRB investigators and attorneys must now evaluate the charge to determine if it has merit and issue a complaint. 

Sanders has frequently expressed strong public support for unions, but this is not the campaign's first labor dispute.

Just a day after this charge was filed, the campaign resolved a long-running dispute with its union, which was attempting to secure a salary increase for field organizers equivalent to at least a $15 an hour wage.

"I respect workers rights and I respect the union movement," Sanders said in a CNN interview Tuesday about the salary dispute.

A spokesman for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400, Jonathan Williams, declined to comment. The NLRB did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Correction: A former Bernie Sanders' staffer filed a charge with the NLRB. A previous version of this story said a complaint had been filed.

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2020 Elections

Sanders reaches deal with campaign staffers' union for $15 minimum wage

Key Points
  • The Bernie Sanders campaign and a union representing campaign staffers have reached an agreement to pay field organizers the equivalent of at least $15 per hour. 
  • Field organizers were getting paid an average of less than $13 per hour, according to a Washington Post report. 
  • Sanders has made a $15 per hour minimum wage and workers rights more broadly centerpieces of his campaign.