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Bernie Sanders' campaign accused of unfair labor practices in complaint

Not a great look for the supposed champion of workers' rights

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The presidential campaign of Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders has been hit with a National Labor Relations Board complaint alleging unfair labor practices, according to Bloomberg Law.

The complaint comes while the campaign is already dealing with some conflict and bad publicity over unionized campaign workers demanding $15 per hour minimum wage, something Sanders advocates for publicly but was not paying his campaign staff.

What's the news?

The complaint was filed anonymously on July 19 to the NLRB. The full charges have not been publicized yet, but they reportedly include illegal interrogation of employee(s), retaliation against staff, unlawful discharge of an employee, modifying a labor contract, and engaging in illegal discipline.

As a result of the complaint, the NLRB will begin a preliminary investigation to see whether the accusations have any validity. If they do, the investigation will move forward, and if they don't, the charges will be dismissed.

So far, neither the union representing Sanders' campaign staff, nor the Sanders campaign has commented on this situation.

The Sanders campaign became the first to unionize in March, with campaign staff voting to join the United Food and Commercial Workers.

Why does it matter?

Sanders, who sits in a somewhat tenuous position among the Democratic primary frontrunners, did not need this kind of controversy.

He's sold himself as a champion of a higher minimum wage, and then it came out that he wasn't paying his staff that same higher minimum wage. Then, his solution was to cap their hours so that their pay would average $15 an hour.

He has run as a champion of workers' rights, and now he's being accused of some very serious labor violations. Even if the NLRB finds the accusations to be without merit, this is probably going to hover over his campaign at least long enough for other Democratic presidential hopefuls to take some shots at him in the media and/or during the next set of debates.

With Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) on his heels for second place behind Joe Biden, Sanders will need to come ready to play some defense next week.

One last thing…
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