Bernie Sanders on the Wrong Side of Controversy

Vermont Senator and leading Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders often shares a table with labor leaders. But traditionally, he is on the same side of the table.

Lately, that hasn’t been the case for the democratic socialist. The Washington Post reported last week that many of Sanders’ campaign employees had unionized to ask for better treatment from the Senator. Their demand? Simply that he pay them the $15 minimum wage for which he campaigned around the country.

Sanders’ Big Platform

The $15 minimum wage has long been a central piece of the Sanders platform for years. He believes that such an increase would improve laborers standards of living and bolster the economy.

“Working for a living should mean earning a living wage,” says the candidate’s website. “And health care should be a human right—not a bargaining chip that keeps employees in coercive, exploitative environments.”

Historically, Sanders has made a habit of demanding that companies change their ways and pay their workers a fair wage. He regularly targets billionaires and CEOs on Twitter, suggesting they slash their salary to pay their workers the $15 minimum he proposes.

For years, Sanders’ political opponents have labeled him a hypocrite for these demands. Because the Senator’s own net worth exceeds $2 million, conservatives have often balked at his attacks on the wealthy. But Sanders has not faced controversy from his own side until recently.

Is Sanders a Hypocrite?

Unionized workers in Sanders’ own campaign turned his words against him when they asked for that minimum wage for which he campaigns. The labor leaders in the campaign suggested they “cannot be expected to build the largest grassroots organizing program in American history while making poverty wages.”

Given our campaign’s commitment to fighting for a living wage of at least $15.00 an hour, we believe it is only fair that the campaign would carry through this commitment to its own field team.

News of the labor fight was an immediate optics loss for the Senator, with many on the Right having a field day at the news. Sanders hurt his own case further with his remarks about the protest:

“It does bother me that people are going outside of the process and going to the media,” Sanders added. “That is really not acceptable. It is really not what labor negotiations are about, and it’s improper.”

Bold words from a man who claims to be an advocate of the working class. On Sunday, the Sanders campaign announced that they would meet the laborers demands… by cutting hours. In so doing, he stepped right into the trap he’d laid for himself.

This is a massive imaging loss for Sanders. The progressive Senator is famous for making sweeping campaign promises that are immediately labelled as impractical by his opponents, and even by some within his own party. And in this instance, he proved just how impractical the policy is.

Companies simply can’t afford to arbitrarily raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. They will have to either cut hours or, more probably, cut jobs.

This dispute gave Sanders a chance to practice what he preached. But at the end of the day, he simply proved that what he preached was impractical.

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