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In Minn. gov’s race, one campaign’s workers form a union

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State Rep. Erin Murphy, who cut her political teeth as a nurses union organizer, announced Monday that workers in her campaign for Minnesota governor have formed a union.

Murphy's employees have signed a collective bargaining agreement with the Campaign Workers Guild, making hers the first campaign for governor in the country to take that step with the union. The guild bills itself as a "national independent union representing non-management workers on electoral and issue-based campaigns." Several candidates for Congress and local offices have aligned with the guild around the country.

Murphy, a former House majority leader from St. Paul, is one of three Democrats still in the hunt for the party's nomination. She is seeking the DFL endorsement in June, along with State Auditor Rebecca Otto and U.S. Rep. Tim Walz.

"It’s important that campaigns reflect the values we, as candidates, hold," Murphy said. "I talk a lot about the critical role that labor unions play in advocating for workers and ensuring the balance of power in our democracy. So I could not be prouder of my campaign staff for organizing and for building power from our headquarters to every corner of the state."

Campaigns are known for long, irregular hours with often low pay and demanding managers. The guild says its goal is to help campaign workers fight for "fair wages, a sustainable career with reasonable hours and respect from management."

"Working from one election cycle to the next should not mean working from paycheck to paycheck," the guild says on its website. "It shouldn't mean having to put up with unsafe housing and abusive bosses. And it should never mean staying silent about sexual harassment or racism out of fear of being blacklisted. "

Jim Niland, campaign manager for Otto, said the guild hasn't approached her campaign about organizing its six employees. If a drive was started, Niland said Otto would let it proceed and employees could decide if a majority wants a union.

"We're paying a living wage and everyone here has health care coverage," Niland said. "I think we have a pretty collegial atmosphere so if there are any issues my staff raises we are open to conversation about that."

Walz's campaign manager Nick Coe said they also have not been approached by the guild to unionize.

"There hasn’t been a movement to unionize internally but we’re all about making sure staff voices are heard and we’d engage in good faith if there were such an effort," Coe said in an email.