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“Campaigns have unique characteristics that can be obstacles to changing culture”

Wednesday, Sep 26, 2018

* The Illinois Anti-Harassment, Equality and Access panel’s full report includes this line: “Campaigns have unique characteristics that can be obstacles to changing culture.”

Here’s a list from the panel

First, campaigns rely heavily on volunteers, consultants, and independent contractors, who are not protected by federal and state employment discrimination laws, and many of the smaller campaigns do not qualify as employers under the law. The laboring force of volunteers and independent consultants often lacks power in other ways as well, due to their positions within campaigns, and sometimes age and inexperience.

The current campaign structure gives the candidate, campaign management, and key donors disproportionate power. The party culture of idolizing the favored candidates or those within the inner circle can lead to a belief that those in power have a license to prey on the more vulnerable people in the campaign. To complicate things further, individuals with significant power or authority can be volunteers or not employed by the campaign. And sometimes, campaign workers do not know who their boss is, making reporting misconduct even more difficult.

Second, campaigns are transient or temporary with limited resources. The financial reality of politics is that most campaigns prioritize their time and money on persuasion, not hiring full-time campaign employees or creating the infrastructure required for a positive workplace culture, including formal anti-harassment policies, training, reporting mechanisms, or investigation procedures. The time and money factors might also encourage taking the path of least resistance when addressing complaints about workplace culture, which may have the effect of penalizing the victim or perpetuating the problem by not fully resolving complaints and allowing other organizations to rehire the accused.

Third, campaign workers work rigorous hours pursuing a cause they believe is worthy and important. As one participant from the Chicago Listening Session put it, the intensity of a campaign makes people forget about the larger issues. Campaign workers and volunteers dedicate hours of personal time and energy to the cause. This creates a sense of loyalty to the candidate and a desire to protect him or her from any negative press. The investment and all-consuming nature of a campaign can make people singularly focus on the ultimate goal of winning the election, at the expense of other principles.

Finally, campaigns have unique geographical and environmental factors that can lead to risk. Campaign work can sometimes be isolating, giving workers little contact with co-workers or with anyone other than a direct supervisor. Communication may be performed at odd hours, on personal devices, blurring the lines between private and work communications. The social nature of campaign work may lead to an environment of tolerating or encouraging alcohol consumption.

Again, we’ll get to more of the recommendations in other posts. Your thoughts on this one?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

6 Comments »
  1. - Jane Fonda - Wednesday, Sep 26, 18 @ 9:31 am:

    ==campaigns rely heavily on volunteers, consultants, and independent contractors==

    What about small campaigns?

    ==idolizing the favored candidates==

    What does this mean?

    ==positive workplace culture==

    Please define


  2. - OneMan - Wednesday, Sep 26, 18 @ 9:34 am:

    ==idolizing the favored candidates==

    What does this mean?

    This candidate is the party leader’s choice for this office, they obviously are liked by the party leader (a powerful entity), I don’t want to anger than candidate nor the party leader by filing this complaint.

    Do I want to be known in party political circles as the person who caused X to lose because I caused X to lose?

    That is what I suspect they mean.


  3. - ME TOO - Wednesday, Sep 26, 18 @ 9:44 am:

    There is no valid excuse for not treating everyone around you in a kind and respectful manner. Period.


  4. - Lt Guv - Wednesday, Sep 26, 18 @ 10:12 am:

    ME TOO, you’re correct this is no excuse. Still, this is the best short synopsis of campaign culture I have read. Some of the results socially are great; friendships and bonds are formed that last a lifetime because you’re thrown into a “crucible” of a micro political society both on the campaign trail and under the dome. Conversely, this describes how that same culture can be isolating and disconnecting from larger society.


  5. - Matt Vernau - Wednesday, Sep 26, 18 @ 10:30 am:

    Me Too I agree with you but there are days when anyone is tired, frustrated, scared or angry and even the best of us are not always in control of ourselves. We need supervision and sometimes forgiveness. Mostly I am a gentleman occasionally I say what comes to mind.


  6. - Langhorne - Wednesday, Sep 26, 18 @ 1:11 pm:

    Female staffers run a good number of tier 1 campaigns. I wonder how many.

    In addition to the perils of harassment issues, staffers on leave fall behind their peers in pension credits. They might advance their careers, but at a price. Campaigns should make a compensatory pmt to the staffer’s IRA.


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