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In early on June, Sen. Bernie Sanders traveled to Walmart’s annual shareholder conference to confront company executives over their ethical culpability because that the short incomes of many of the this firm employees.

“Walmart is the biggest private employee in America and also is own by the Walton family, the wealthiest household in the united States,” Sanders said. “And yet, despite the significant wealth the its owner, Walmart pays plenty of of the employees scarcity wages — salaries that space so short that plenty of of these employees are forced to count on government programs like food stamps, Medicaid and public housing in order come survive.”

People with family members to support typically don’t take low-level work on politics campaigns, and consequently, it’s i can not qualify that plenty of Sanders project staffers are eligible because that social aid benefits. Yet as a report this main by Sean Sullivan at the Washington post revealed, Sanders’s campaign pays plenty of of its staffers — mostly in the traditionally low-paid ar department — much less than the $15 per hour he (along with many Democrats) has set as a proposed nationwide pay floor.

In the context of a competitive primary for the autonomous presidential nomination and a national debate around raising the minimum wage, the staffers’ complaints space a chance for Sanders’s enemies to score points about both hypocrisy and also underlying policy. But beyond the image problem for Sanders that ar staff room hoping to manipulate in order to acquire themselves a raise, it’s a situation study in the power and also the limits of Sanders’s much less wonky, more moralistic variation of left-wing politics.

Low wages + long workweeks = short pay

The underlying problem is the while the Sanders campaign’s cumulative bargaining commitment with its employee union to adjust hourly pay over $15, there are likewise salaried workers on the team.

Field staff earn $36,000 a year, which would be over minimum fairy on a traditional workweek, yet Sanders field personnel to speak they’re in reality working around 60 hours a mainly — for an hourly wage of $13. Long hours are common of campaign work (you have actually a minimal span that time in i beg your pardon to success the thing, after ~ all), yet these certain positions loss into a type of legal and sociocultural black hole. The share in America was the low-status employees would be payment an hourly wage and thus be eligible because that overtime pay if they worked long hours. Salaried employees wouldn’t necessarily get overtime for pulling lengthy shifts, yet salaried work was linked with high-skill, high-status, well-compensated white-collar work.

But capitalism abhors a vacuum, so over time, an ext and more low-paid workers uncovered themselves in the category of gift salaried and also ineligible for overtime. The Obama administration tried to handle this with a job Department regulation mandating overtime for anyone earning less than $47,000, yet it was tested in court and the Trump administration elected not to safeguard the rule, rather writing a new rule that set the threshold in ~ $35,000. In ~ an annual salary just below that threshold, Sanders’s field staff would certainly be collecting numerous overtime and thus earning more than $36,000, but instead, their salary to be pegged (perhaps not coincidentally) to be just above the exempt threshold.

This is, that course, just the Sanders campaign operating through the rules together written. It’s reasonably normal in politics life to have a candidate conduct self according to the currently rules also if the favors transforming the rules.

On campaign finance, for example, Sanders proposes come “replace this firm funding and donations native millionaires and billionaires v public capital of elections the amplifies small-dollar donations,” however in the here and also now, the accepts every little thing contributions he deserve to get, including the occasional big check indigenous a millionaire. And, the course, in his volume as a member the the Senate democratic Caucus, that attended the caucus’s ritzy retreats for big contributors. If he were in charge of the caucus, he can have structured their fundraising procedure differently, but he isn’t. If he were in charge of American campaign finance law, he could make every little thing publicly funded, but he’s not.

By the same token, he’s no in charge of American labor law. If that were, every low wage workers for all projects might be much better paid. Yet if that single-handedly raises pay, he can be placing himself in ~ a disadvantage — i m sorry is a quite normal reason not to desire to carry out something.

This is what minimum fairy skeptics have actually been saying

Beyond the concern of campaign optics, however, this is specifically the suggest that adversaries of minimum wage rises are constantly making — if you force employers to pay more, they’re going come respond through cutting ago elsewhere.

If Sanders boosts the compensation for his field staff, he can end increase needing to rental fewer ar staffers. Alternatively, he might need to cut back on other areas of cost like travel, staging rallies, or running television ads. It would certainly be misleading to say, as minimum wage adversaries sometimes do, that some iron law of supply and demand dictates a cutback on field staff. It does seem plausible that making field an ext expensive would mean a campaign does less field, yet they do have actually a selection of options obtainable to them.

It’s just that if you’re who who desires Bernie Sanders to be elected president, none of the accessible options is all that attractive.

What’s missing here, in ~ the end of the day, is the rhetorical duty that the Walton family’s vast fortune play in Sanders’s decided at the shareholder meeting.

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The institutional objective of the Sanders presidential project is to win the election, a purpose that Sanders fans endorse and also that leads die-hard socialists choose Jacobin editor Bhaskar Sunkara right into the unusual place of siding with the bosses versus worker militancy. The institutional purpose of Walmart, through contrast, is to do money for its shareholders, i m sorry is typically not something the Sanders pan are very interested in.