Texas Democratic organizers unionize, score successful contract

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Organizers with the Texas Democratic Party announced Thursday they had officially unionized, striking a contract with their bosses after roughly two weeks of negotiations.

Jacob Canyon, a Millenial/Gen Z constituency organizer with the party and a representative for the newly formed union with 18 members, said bread and butter issues like better pay and working conditions were among the top reasons they looked to collective bargaining.

“With a bunch of organizers, it was actually kind of easy to organize ourselves to sign [union] cards,” Canyon joked with the Signal. “It was a pretty easy sell.”

Canyon was hired by Texas Democrats in February, a month after leaving Julián Castro’s campaign for president.

“I went from a unionized campaign to a non-unionized state party,” Canyon said. 

“It was a culture shock coming into TDP,” Canyon continued. “It sounds weird, but I had become spoiled by Julián Castro and his very gracious employment terms.” 

He said other organizers hired from the unionized presidential campaigns of Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and former Vice President Joe Biden felt the same way. 

“There’s a culture in campaign organizing where field organizers and organizers, in general, are entry-level positions, and [they say] like ‘I got abused when I was an organizer so it’s okay to underpay all these organizers or have them work 80 hours a week, every week’ — that’s kind of the culture that has been cultivated by some of the older people in campaigns,” Canyon said.

The organizers unionized with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the same union that successfully negotiated with the Warren campaign in 2019. 

The contract — which will be ratified next week — extends until 2022 and allows organizers, most of whom are hired on a short-term cyclical basis, to have benefits in future elections too, even if current organizers are no longer employed by the party after the 2020 elections. 

In a statement to the Signal, Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said the following: “The Texas Democratic Party is the party of working people. The Texas Democratic Party couldn’t be more thrilled with our organizing team coming together, improving our organization, and building the first state party union in our history. Elections are about people talking to people to build a better community. That is what organizers do every single day. We march forward together.”

Canyon said he hopes the unionization of organizers at the TDP, the second-largest state party in the country, will inspire organizers in other state parties to follow suit.

“We’re the Democratic Party, we’re supposed to be the party of labor, the party of working-class people, worker’s rights,” Canyon said. “So I don’t think it’s out of the question for every state party and every Democratic campaign in the country to be unionized because we have to stand by our values.”

Photos: Gage Skidmore/Texas Democratic Party/Wikimedia Commons

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