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Missouri Democratic Party staffers take initial steps toward unionizing

   

Having partnered with the Campaign Workers Guild, staffers for the Missouri Democratic Party (MDP) have begun the process of unionizing, the bargaining team announced Wednesday. 

MDP employees officially submitted a demand for union recognition on Feb. 5 with a bargaining unit made up of senior, junior, and fellowship-level staffers. Shortly after the announcement, MDP Executive Director Lauren Gepford announced party officers would sign the recognition agreement and enter into negotiations. 

“Our Party enthusiastically supports workers and organized labor,” Ben Conover, a senior staffer for MDP in St. Louis, said in a statement. “We know Missourians support workers and organized labor, too. Voters rejected the so-called ‘right-to-work’ measure in August 2018, and Missouri has been one of the few states in the nation to see an increase in union membership. We believe that unionizing as staff of MDP helps strengthen our party and build a brighter future for Missouri Democrats.” 

“We’ve always upheld the spirit of the Labor movement in our workforce and believe this process is a formal recognition of that long standing relationship,” Gepford said in a statement.

Conover told The Missouri Times employees had been considering unionizing for a “couple of months” with the goal of seeing more continuity among staff in future years. 

In Missouri, the party elects its officers every two years, and a new chair can bring turnover within the MDP, Conover said. 

“We feel that for the strength of the party, it’s not too good to turn over staff every two years, and we hope to approach that in bargaining,” Conover said. 

He also pointed to the different levels of staff who make up the collective bargaining team, from senior officials to those at the fellowship level. (A fellowship position tends to be a 20-hour a week job for college students who pick an area of focus, such as communications or fundraising.)

“It’s really important to us to include junior and fellowship staff,” Conover said. “Those are often younger workers, and it’s important they get more protections like the senior staff tend to.”

The move comes on the heels of other state-level party offices as well as Democratic presidential campaign workers unionizing across the country. Earlier this month, the Democratic Party of Oregon voted to unionize with the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades Local 1094. And 2020 campaign staffers for Sen. Bernie Sanders were reportedly the first to do so at the presidential campaign level. 

The Campaign Workers Guild (CWG) also represents three other state parties: Minnesota, North Carolina, and Ohio.

“We’re excited to welcome Missouri Democratic Party workers to CWG,” CWG secretary Caleb-Michael Files said in a statement. “We know from experience in Minnesota, North Carolina, and Ohio that Democratic party workers who unionize see major gains in wages, hours, and other working conditions, and we look forward to bargaining a contract that raises industry standards and puts the Democratic Party’s stated values into action.” 

MDP officers include Chairwoman Jean Peters Baker, Vice-Chair Clem Smith, Treasurer Cydney Mayfield, and Secretary Rev. Darryl Gray.

This story has been updated.