As a two-time candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders staked his campaign on one idea above all others: that health care is a human right, and should be free for everyone. Now, just one day after announcing the end of his latest run at the presidency, Sanders has put his money where his mouth is for the more than 500 people still officially employed by his campaign. From now until November, Sanders staffers will be able to keep their campaign-issued health insurance, thanks to a $1,000 stipend to put toward their COBRA health insurance payments.
Campaign manager Faiz Shakir announced the policy during a staff phone call Thursday, after which Sanders's elated employees spread the news across Twitter:
The announcement of the COBRA stipends and payroll extension comes nearly one year after Sanders's staff ratified the first-ever presidential campaign union contract, which established a $15 minimum wage, transparent salary tiers, and rules regulating paid time off.
Indeed, the Sanders campaign — which regularly raked in enormous cash hauls thanks to scores of small-dollar donors — has a significant amount of leeway when it comes to what to do with their excess funds, now that the senator has exited the 2020 race. But compare his move to provide health care funds with fellow former candidate (and obscenely lavish campaign spender) Mike Bloomberg's vow to keep his staff on the payroll through the general election — a broken promise that prompted multiple class-action lawsuits from former staffers furious at being stiffed by the billionaire. One of the suits even alleges staffers were lured onto the Bloomberg campaign specifically with the promise of continued salaries through November.
Asked in late March about the lawsuits, a Bloomberg campaign spokesperson told NPR that money was being set aside "to ensure that all staff receive health care through April."
Meanwhile, Sanders seems to be committed to making good on the final words of his speech announcing the end of his campaign: "The struggle continues." For hundreds of Sanders staffers, that means they can rest a little easier knowing that they'll have one less thing to worry about while they continue on the path Sanders's campaign started them on.