Project Wonderful

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Ask Nancy: How to Work Smarter Not Longer

It finally happened. I wrote the same blog post twice.

Occasionally I will post about "working smarter not longer" and sometimes I get questions about what that means. Then I do things like write an entire blog post answering that question before I remember that I already wrote this one in 2014, the inadvertent rehashing of which was not an optimal use of my time. (Bonus time management tip, make sure you haven't already done something before you go to do it.) I'm posting this new version because a) it's already written and b) it contains some new insights gained over the last four years. Enjoy!

1) Plan ahead. Everyone knows that campaigns require planning but not everyone is clear on what planning means. A plan is not “the event is on September 6th and there will be a canvass afterward.” Planning involves specific goals, “we want to turn out 100 people” and specific steps to get to those goals “to get 100 people there we need about 150 RSVPs. So for the next two weeks every night we need to make about 500 phone calls. I will need two interns to do this with me. These are the lists I will call. Here is where I will track the RSVPs. Here is the script for confirmation calls which will begin the Friday before…” You get the picture. Think through every aspect of your project and envision what it will look like. Cut it down into small pieces and start as early as possible. Most late nights in an office are spent there because someone didn’t plan ahead and winds up scrambling to complete a greater amount of work than they’d accounted for. The sooner you start working on a project the more time you have to contemplate little details that might have escaped you if you leave things to the last minute...and then you have stay up all night taking care of them. So plan your work and then work your plan.

2) Take care of your body. Exercising, eating right, drinking water and getting sleep are essentially for your overall productivity. But I’m also talking about in the moment. If you are completely exhausted at 10pm and you’ve been staring at a blank screen because you need to complete a walk script or a press release, go the heck to bed and wake up early to take care of it. If it’s 3pm and you haven’t eaten all day because you’ve been planning a rally with a big surrogate, take half an hour to get a sandwich and come back. I’m not saying to drop everything to take a nap every time you yawn or get a sandwich every time you have a craving but the truth is you don’t do your best work running on empty. It’s better to take a little time to take of yourself rather than taking an hour to complete a task that should take 15 minutes because you’re working depleted.

3) Delegate. We tell organizers to organize their way out of the job but as managers we sometimes neglect to heed our own advice. I’m not suggesting you foist the less desirable aspects of your job on your underlings but I do believe you should empower them to take on more responsibility. Often times the 13 things you “have” to get done don’t have to get done by you. However, if you don’t train and empower your staff early then you wind up being the only one on the campaign who knows how to cut turf, pull a list, or work the email program come crunch time. Or you as the Campaign Manager wind up being the one who activists and volunteers call with questions election day because you never bothered to hand off those relationships. Just like you have to spend money to make money, you have to spend time to save time. Not to mention of course that you are helping your staff become more invested and teaching them skills they will go on to use on future campaigns. Train and empower your staff, or risk some very late nights.

4) Keep a to do list. I keep two kinds of to-do lists on my desk. One is a whiteboard with ongoing projects, emails, ideas and things that need to get followed up on. The other is a daily paper list with three professional and three personal things I need to accomplish before the end of the day. Personal might say something like “Pick up dry-cleaning, pay car loan, call Grandma to thank her for birthday gift.” Professional might be, “Write press release, secure locations for photo shoot, send e-blast.” (I now also keep an ongoing to-do list on a Google doc for each person who works under me so I know what needs checking in on.) When something comes up that's not a priority for the day, rather than get sidetracked, I add it to the whiteboard and carry on with the project at hand. My day doesn’t end until I’ve accomplished all three professional (and usually personal) items on my list and I don’t start in on other projects until I’ve accomplished those three. Sometimes they take all day, sometimes I knock them all out before lunchtime but the lists help me feel productive and ensure that nothing slips through the cracks.

5) Prioritize. Do what is important, not what is most fun. It’s a very human impulse to spend more energy on what we feel like doing than on that which is not enjoyable but needs to get done. Let’s say your boss has asked you to call through county chairs and introduce yourself and you are anxious about this because you’ve heard a couple of the people you are calling are not fans of the campaign. You also have to decorate your office and spend some zen-like time cutting turf on VAN. If you put off calling the county chairs while you complete the other tasks on your plate you’re going to be grumpy all day because you will be dreading the unpleasant task. You are saving the activity that takes the most emotional energy for the point in the day when you will have the least. (By the way Campaign Managers totally know when and why you are procrastinating on the thing you don’t want to do, and we don’t love it.) On the other hand, if you start with making your phone calls and knock that task out before noon, you’ll spend the rest of your day feeling accomplished and get to do what you love about your job emotionally unfettered. If you eat dessert first, you’ll never finish your dinner.

6) Focus. I heard this amazing quote from motivational author Jen Sincero, “Urgency is the opposite of hurrying.” Urgency means you are honed in at the task at hand and you are calm and laser-focused on getting done what needs to get done because you have planned ahead (see #1). Hurrying means you are stressed out and running around like a chicken with your head cut off because you didn’t account for this situation. Work expands to fit the time in which you have to do it. So if you have a task you know will require a lot of time or energy, close the other tabs on your computer and set aside a chunk of time to do that task and that task only. Yes, phones ring and things come up but 90% of interruptions are items you can make a note of and respond to in a couple of hours. If something truly requires your immediate attention, take care of it, and then get right back to the task at hand. Nothing drives me crazy like someone complaining that they’ll be in office until midnight after having spent all day dicking around on Facebook. Do what needs to get done, calmly, completely and well.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Campaign Workers Guild: Your Questions Answered Part II (AMA)

I had an great response to my first post about Campaign Workers Guild, including from my own staff on my last campaign who decided to organize! To that end I put out a call for questions about my experience managing a unionized campaign but quickly realized you had questions I was not qualified to answer. Thankfully Aisha Naseem, who is an at-large member of the Campaign Workers Guild Executive Board agreed to answer some of my questions.

A lot of the questions I got were not so much questions as objections and I get it. This is a new group, it's changing the norm in our industry and there are still a lot of kinks to work through. I totally hear where those are coming from and I try my best to respond those honestly below. After that, Aisha will answer some of your more technical questions.

Part I. Nancy's Q&A

1 )This new generation of organizers is so entitled, won't this just encourage that level of entitlement? and 2) Won't this change the culture of campaigns?

These are two different questions but I am answering them together.

First off, I can't really speak to how entitled past generations of organizers have been because I wasn't managing them. I know my friends and I worked very hard, but I also worked with some people who didn't. While I have found myself frustrated by the work ethic of some people working under me in recent years (and some of the submissions I've gotten from flat out lazy organizers), I have also had some really outstanding employees.

Second, collective bargaining is both well...collective and bargaining. It's really unlikely that a worker would propose something inappropriate to our line of work (like everyone gets paid double for working after 6pm) and that would make it through to the final contract.

Finally, while our Campaign Workers Guild contract did include guarantees that I was not offered on previous campaigns--like at least one day off per week for full time employees except during GOTV--why are we acting like that's a bad or unreasonable thing? Yes, I had to walk uphill in the snow both ways when I was an organizer, and it made me a very hard worker and stronger person, but it also wreaked havoc on my mental and physical health. If we want workers to have the energy and motivation do their best work, if we want our movement to be inclusive, and we want to attract a more diverse pool of campaign operatives then these are "benefits" (aka guarantees of common sense and decency) that we should be providing to our workers anyway.

The fact that we were treated poorly is not a compelling reason to perpetuate those practices.

3) What has been the reaction from more traditional unions?

Aisha answers this below but I want to answer from my personal perspective as well. Honestly? It was mixed. Some people thought it was really cool that our candidate was living up to his values. Some people were highly skeptical and felt like it was trivializing what unions do and using them for a PR stunt.

I will say I was very aware and wanted to capitalize on the PR opportunities as a Campaign Manager, but I was mostly excited about what CWG was doing and wanted to be part of it and support them. That said, even if neither of those had been a factor, things probably would have shaken out for us in much the same way. By the way, I know CWG would want me to emphasize that the idea to unionize should come from the workers not the candidate and Campaign Manager. Ours happened to be a natural synergy because I was already working on my first CWG blog post when our staff approached me about it.

4) Won't unions put Dem campaigns at a competitive disadvantage?

Number one, and as cheesy as this is, I think having a a staff that feels valued and bought in puts us at an advantage. Campaigns where people are happy and healthy are not only better places to be, but they inspire people to work harder. Number two Republicans already pay their lowest paid workers more.

5) This still doesn't account for long gaps in employment, long-term healthcare, training people to move through the pipeline etc.

You're totally right. It doesn't, but as you will see below as Campaign Workers Guild expands it plans to fill some of those needs. If someone else wants to find a different way to solve these problems that's great too. I'm all about the long-term health of our profession and our movement. But I don't buy the argument "this doesn't fix everything so instead we should have nothing."

Part II. Aisha's Q&A

Aisha Naseem is an at large executive board member of the Campaign Worker’s Guild. Aisha has been organizing and working on campaigns for over five years and will be studying social policy at the University of Chicago in the fall.

1) What recourse do workers have who want to unionize and run into hostile management? I can imagine workers still not wanting to go to the press or be public about it and damage the campaign's chances.

Employers have always engaged in union-busting tactics. Bosses are bosses, regardless of the industry. We all know how Walmart intimidates and threatens its workers. In Mississippi, the largely black Nissan workforce was warned that they’d lose their jobs and go back to “picking cotton” if they voted to unionize. Billionaires Elon Musk of Tesla and Jeff Bezos of Amazon work hard to try to intimidate their workers out of unionizing (with varied success—their times are coming).

Campaign workers can fight against union-busting in their own workplaces through broad and unique approaches. These include presenting petitions to management, wearing pro-union apparel or pins, coordinating volunteers, funders, or local politicians to put pressure on management, or, of course, letting the public know that a candidate who professes to be pro-labor spends energy and campaign funds on committing labor rights violations.

2) How has CWG expanded since we last spoke? Are there plans to expand the scope of your work? Specifically I've gotten a lot of questions about a) trainings and b) benefits for campaign workers between cycles.

Since our launch in early 2018, workers have reached collective bargaining agreements on 20 campaigns and one consulting firm. Many other bargaining units are in the process of unionizing: some are in preliminary stages and some are currently at the bargaining table demanding health insurance and living wages. We have worked with a firm to develop a campaign-specific sexual harassment training. Some of our long-term projects in progress include developing training materials for campaign workers, creating a nationwide supporter housing network, and setting up healthcare pools. We already provide benefits to our associate and working members, such as advance job postings for union jobs. We’re working on a members-only jobs board as well. On our most recent membership call, we had an attorney present on how to prevent and fight against wage theft in campaign workplaces.

3) What happens if a campaign unionizes in the primary and then DCCC or the state caucus comes in in the general and says "no you need to [lower your min salary, not provide healthcare, etc] in order for us to approve your budget and work with you”?

First of all, let’s just dig into that scenario. Let’s say a Democratic state caucus says they won’t work with a campaign unless the campaign discontinued offering healthcare to their workers. Let’s remember who we’re talking about here. This would be the party that ostensibly supports healthcare for all...but not for all. Our movement is about more than contracts and bargaining units—it’s about changing the culture that allows these threats and hypocrisies to even be a part of the equation.

In your example, it is the responsibility of the Democratic state caucus to bargain with the workers, so we’re already in a place of continuity and getting to the table. If the caucus said they wanted to pay less and not offer healthcare, what we’d do next is similar to our first response about union-busting. As always, we’re entirely worker-run, so the workers of that bargaining unit would democratically decide what action they’d like to take.

4) Would unionizing work differently in a so-called right to work state?

For CWG, unionizing in a state with Right to Work (For Less) legislation doesn’t work differently. Workers in multiple RTW states have already successfully unionized with CWG. Anti-labor people want everyone to think that RTW entirely shuts down workers’ chances of unionizing, and that simply isn’t true. Is it anti-worker legislation? Yes. Is it going to slow us, or the broader labor movement, down? Absolutely not. Workers are fighting collectively for fair wages and proper working conditions across the country, regardless of their zip code.

5) Is joining the union part of the agreement once the campaign is unionized? I'm asking how would you a) deal with a staffer who didn't want to be part of the union or b) is it something you disclose during hiring and people who wouldn't be part of the union are just not hired

Like many of our answers, it really depends on what the workers have bargained into their contract! CWG workers have done a fantastic job organizing their coworkers, so the majority of workers are not just ready to pay dues but really excited to do so. We have trained stewards and worksite leaders who sign up new hires and keep their coworkers engaged. To be clear, regardless of whether a worker pays dues or not, they’re still a member of the bargaining unit.

6) Is your hope that eventually people who are CWG members will refuse to be part of campaigns that aren't unionized? Do you ever imagine a movement in which campaign workers across a state or a country refuse to work with other campaigns that aren't unionized or walk out in solidarity with other campaigns?

Ultimately, CWG aims to change campaign culture and elevate industry standards. Right now, campaign workers are finally getting the chance to experience collective bargaining and to assert greater power in their workplace -- and that’s pretty addicting. We do hear from many of our members that they only want to work on unionized campaigns now and plan on unionizing every campaign they work on from here on out, so yes, the change is coming! Ultimately we aim to create an environment where workers’ rights are respected, but the way to get there is to agitate, educate, and of course, organize.

7) What has been the reaction from traditional unions?

CWG has already called for our members to gather in solidarity for fellow workers’ rights. For example, in April, one of our units picketed in solidarity with the Teamsters. We’ve written letters of support for other unions who are going through big fights (and they’ve done so for us). And, based on the conversations we’ve been having and the immense amount of support we’re receiving, shows of solidarity like that are definitely going to continue.

8) It seems like only campaigns that already treat their workers well are the ones organizing. Have there been any successful attempts to organize that were adversarial? How did that impact the campaign going forward?

Many of the workers on those unionized campaigns would tell you a different story; we have had a number of adversarial reactions to voluntary recognition and bargaining demands. Naturally, the most pro-labor workers gravitate towards working with the most pro-labor candidates. But even the phrase “treating their workers well” is a funny one in the campaign world! In this industry, “giving” workers one day off a week is often characterized as treating them well when really those workers are still working 10-12 hour days, 6 days a week, without overtime, on a salary of $2500 per month. That’s no exaggeration. That’s the industry we live and work in. People are often wildly impressed if a campaign offers their workers health insurance. That should be standard!

Moreover, treating workers well means more than giving them minimally acceptable pay and allowing them to go to the doctor. There are dozens of other rights and benefits workers receive under a union contract. We have yet to hear of a non-unionized campaign offering progressive discipline, a grievance procedure, supporter housing vetting, office safety standards, guaranteed mileage reimbursement policies, and sexual harassment reporting procedures.

Several campaigns we’ve negotiated with—unfortunately but not at all surprisingly—have failed to be pro-labor when it comes to their own workers. Bosses are bosses. We have had some tough, very adversarial contract fights. Again, we’re entirely member-run, and it’s up to the workers of that campaign to democratically decide whether they want to go public or not, so we can’t provide any hot gossip for you that hasn’t gone public already.

9)What is your stance on full time workers being paid on 1099s?

1099s should be used only for true independent contractors. The vast majority of campaign workers are not independent contractors and are too often misclassified as such. Virtually all full-time workers on campaigns should be classified as employees because they work for a single employer and labor under their control and direction. It’s easy to see why management likes to misclassify workers as 1099s: employers generally do not withhold income taxes or make tax payments for unemployment insurance, Social Security, etc., for independent contractors, and employees enjoy many more legal rights and protections.

10)Campaign Managers are often management in that they hire and manage other campaign staff but are often at the mercy of a candidate, a caucus or committee, or consultants and therefore subject to similar abuses as other campaign staffers. Are they eligible to negotiate as "workers" even though they have at (least partial) hiring and supervisory power?

The Campaign Workers Guild is a union for non-management campaign workers. Whether we can represent a particular worker is not based on their job title but rather on what they do. Several of our contracts have covered campaign managers who were not truly working as managers or supervisors. We are also mindful of the fact a campaign worker may move into and out of management positions during a single electoral cycle. Though we would be conflicted out of representing both management and non-management workers in the same unit, we recognize that improved work conditions usually benefit staff outside of the bargaining unit and that management workers may have good reason to unionize, too. All workers should have dignity and power in their workplaces, and we support management-level workers taking action to improve their own conditions and elevate industry standards.

Thank you so much Aisha for sharing with us and to everyone who submitted questions!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

How To Be An Ally To Your Woman Campaign Manager

We talk a lot about why it's important to have women in seats of power when it comes to elected officials but it's just now that we're starting to talk about why we need women in roles like Chief of Staff and Campaign Manager--the power behind the power. Hat tip to this Teen Vogue article (can we talk about how Teen Vogue is slaying it these last couple years?) by Erica Sagrans. These women are setting the culture of their operations and influencing policy and priorities often more so than their candidates/elected officials.

I'm going to write more about this too coming up but I genuinely believe that men in our industry need help catching up and really understanding on a fundamental and practical level what it means to support women in our industry and for that matter women need to think critically about supporting each other. Now, I want to put out a disclaimer that by and large I love the men I work with (so much so that I married one). I really struggled with this post because I want to use specific examples and call out some behavior I have seen as a Campaign Manager but I don't want to shame anyone. When you know better you do better and I know that the smart, progressive guys in our community want to do better. So here we go.

1) Notice when there aren't women or people of color in the room. Managing my first campaign back from 3 years in DC I was shocked but not surprised by the level of just obliviousness to soft sexism that still exists on the ground on campaigns. There was one particular incident in which I was not invited to an important meeting about the future of the campaign despite being, you know, the Campaign Manager and that incident really crystalized what had been bothering me since day one. When I pointed out to the rest of the team that not only was I not included but no women from any of the groups attending the meeting had been invited, they simply hadn't noticed. This cut me even closer than the original slight. The fact that it was natural and unremarkable to my colleagues that a group of 10-15 people should be comprised entirely of men underlined a complete lack of appreciation for the challenges I face as a professional woman. So the first thing you can do is just notice. Begin to notice how often women are left out, spoken over and sidelined and you will gain a deeper understanding of why your choices and actions impact our professional relationship in ways you hadn't considered.

2) Bring me with you/Don't be a gatekeeper. Great, so you've noticed that women aren't invited. The next step is to invite them. No one in the progressive community (I hope) puts together any sort of conversation and thinks "let's not have any women/people of color/working class people/LGBTQ+ people etc there." What we do think is, "Who do I know? With whom am I comfortable? With whom do I already have a relationship?" And the problem is that the answer tends to be people who look and think like us. Even if it this weren't a scenario in which I should have already been invited by dint of my position (and I absolutely should have been and eventually was) it would behoove our movement in similar situations to actively seek out appropriate women to include. You may say "if a woman doesn't hold a position of power then why should I just bring one along?" To that I say, "why am I the only woman in a position important enough to (eventually) be included?" Part of the answer is that these are the rooms in which relationships are built and those relationships often put people in positions of power. So if you make an effort to insist on having a woman to the table, the next time we're asking the questions "Who do I know? With whom am I comfortable? With whom do I already have a relationship?" The answer will be "her." (No, not Egg.) Not only does diversity lead to better outcomess but it interupts a self-perpetuating cycle.

This is especially important in an industry where our currency is relationships. Sometimes we want to be the gatekeeper to powerful people or conversations because we think it makes us valuable. I would submit that preserving our privilege isn't the best way to build that currency. Instead being a connector is a wonderful way to build our personal power and improve our community. As I always say, this cycle you might be at a committee and I might be managing one of your races, but next cycle I'll be at that committee and you'll be a consultant wanting me to connect you to my races. So do what's good for you AND our community and make sure you are advocating to have women (and other traditionally marginalized people) at the table.

3) Speak respectfully, whether I'm in the room or not. I attended a gathering recently where a high-ranking official light-heartedly called someone "a pussy" then turned to me, the only woman in the room and apologized. There's a lot to unpack in that particular backpack but let's suffice it to say the following.

I have a zero tolerance policy for the word "pussy" on my campaigns and it's a policy I've had to enforce, a lot. Every time a male colleague refers to someone as a "pussy" I calmly and firmly interject, "we don't use that word on this campaign." (BTW I totally recommend adopting this.) My policy is not about cursing or even about off color jokes--I revel in both with great frequency and enthusiasm something I've had to keep an eye on as I've moved up the ranks-- but about the misogynistic root of the word itself. It's the same reason I had to side with Twitter about Samantha Bee calling Ivanka Trump a feckless cunt. I would never defend Ivanka Trump but when you use a gendered word like "cunt" or "pussy" to refer to someone in a derogatory fashion you reinforce the stereotype that women are weak or that our sexuality is dangerous. Whether you realize it or not you are essentially claiming your own power by reducing women to physical form or reproductive function. You are not insulting one woman (or man) in question, you are insulting ALL women. Moreover it is imperative that we never behave as if women's dignity and the moral high ground are at odds in zero sum game.

One joke or slip of the tongue isn't going the crumble empire but it does contribute to a toxic culture. So don't say something when I'm not there that for which you feel you'd have to apologize if I were. I love campaign people because we are smart, funny, and ambitious. Surely we can come up with some more creative curse words.

4) Don't go to strip clubs. I really wrestled over whether to include this one both because it seems so painfully obvious and because I don't want to give any ammunition to anyone who might use my words to defame Democratic campaigns. On the other hand...ayfkm?

Not too long ago, I wanted the phone number for a mid-ranking person in the Democratic infrastructure and I knew a colleague of mine had his number because that colleague had told me a story where he had lent this person money when they were at...a strip club. You know why I didn't have the guy's number? Because I sure as heck wasn't at a strip club. You see my issue here?

I don't want to give the impression that is a regular occurrence or the favored pastime of off duty operatives--if it ever was I think we've moved past that. But it happens enough that I could take my three best straight male friends in this industry and think of three separate unrelated incidents I could have used as the above example.

Look, this is not a point about the morality or feminism of strip clubs. I know there are arguments on both sides. But regardless of what side you fall on surely you can appreciate that this is not appropriate in a professional context. I know, and love, that the line between personal and professional is often blurred as we work long hours together in unfamiliar destinations. If you are at a bachelor party, gross in my opinion, but fine. If you are blowing off some steam with your new coworkers after going out on the road for GOTV...ask yourself who isn't there and why.

5) Validate my frustration. At its best working on campaigns can be absolutely exhilarating. At it's worst it can feel like having your soul slowly chipped away by an ice pick. You know what else is a lot like that? Being a woman. This work is hard. Life is hard. Being a woman is hard, especially in this industry, and especially now. I can't tell you how much means to me when I tell a male colleague a story like the ones above and they respond, without me have to prompt them, "that's not okay." By contrast of course, when male colleagues bend over backwards to deny the gendered aspects of an unpleasant work situation, it only compounds my frustration. There are a thousand little slights (some might call them "microaggressions") that come part and parcel with being a woman in a professional position of power and when we recognize them and call them out, that load gets a little lighter.

6) Understand that I'm doing this backwards in heels. The corollary to point 5 is that I'm asking you not to express your disappointment or displeasure with me when I don't handle an unfair situation the way you would or think that I should have. Please understand I've been socialized to be sensitive to the reactions my actions provoke and that those reactions are often different because I'm a woman. Where you might demand to be included in a meeting and be seen as sticking up for your candidate, I'm seen as egotistic and not being a team player. Where you might flat out reject someone's idea and be seen as decisive, I'm being a bitch. Speaking of socialization, the quiet but constant self-doubt I suffer as I struggle to balance when to push back against these norms versus when to suck it up for the sake of efficiency (even if that "efficiency" means placating egos for an extra 10 minutes in a situation where a man wouldn't have to) and the guilt and impotence I feel regardless of which path I choose is quite enough to drag me down all on their own.. Though your disappointment may be well-intentioned, please give me the benefit of the doubt that I thought of that, and keep it to yourself.

Writing this took it out of me but I have lot more to say on the subject. Shout out to all the badass men and women who make it a pleasure to do this job.

Campaign Love and Mine,