Veteran campaign manager and political organizer Logan Davis this year helped found the Political Workers Guild of Colorado, the first union of its kind in the country. The guild, which began with organizing Democratic legislative aides at the state Capitol, has since grown to nearly 100 dues-paying members from across the field of political workers.
Davis, who was recently elected to the guild's seven-member steering committee, says they're ready to welcome more to the fold — even Republicans.
Davis grew up in Tennessee and moved to Colorado in 2013. He's managed scores of campaigns since then and organized knocking on more than 1 million doors. He's had stints doing opposition research and as deputy director at the House Majority Project, the state House Democrats' campaign arm, where he oversaw the on-the-ground managers for every targeted race in the state.
Colorado Politics caught up with Davis to talk about his experience across the spectrum of political work and what might be ahead in a state where politics is a year-round pursuit.
Colorado Politics: How did the Political Workers Guild of Colorado come about?
Logan Davis: We launched the Political Workers Guild in March of this year, but the story really goes back a few years. Legislative aides are responsible in large part for the functioning of an entire branch of the state government, but they are paid extremely little, excluded from labor laws and have traditionally been denied benefits. A few years ago, some dedicated legislative aides started making real strides towards creating an aides’ union, but two separate attempts fell short, including the push in 2020, which was curtailed by the pandemic. Meanwhile, I started having conversations with the couple dozen campaign managers I was overseeing last year about a similar entity to improve standards on the campaign trail — an area of our industry where skilled labor has often, though mistakenly, been treated as expendable.
When 2021 rolled around, those two conversations dovetailed. In the aftermath of the pandemic and with state laws preventing aides from forming a collective bargaining unit, we realized we needed a new approach. When the Alphabet Workers Union announced their formation of a non-bargaining “open-model” union, we had our inspiration.
The goal was no longer collective bargaining: it was strength in numbers, the cornerstone of the labor movement. By dropping the push for collective bargaining, we were also able to include non-aides — which is crucial, since being a legislative aide is not a year-round job. There is a lot of crossover between aides and campaign staff, and representing both of those not-quite-disparate groups allows us to provide some continuity to our membership as they navigate a political career.
We launched the guild in March 2021 with official recognition from Democratic leadership, and the rate at which we have grown since that point is a testament to the need for an entity like this. Community and solidarity were in short supply during the pandemic, and this is as much an effort to look out for each other as it is an effort to improve labor standards in our field.
CP: The guild scored some major wins this past session, securing benefits for legislative aides. How did that happen, and what’s next for the guild?
Davis: When we launched, our first goal was clear: get healthcare benefits for legislative aides. The cost of health insurance on the open market is prohibitively high for someone making legislative aide wages, and aides had always been barred from buying into the state government insurance plan.
We had some productive conversations with leadership early on in the process, where we let them know what we were pursuing and they helped us figure out how to make it happen. There were some bumps in the road, as with any stakeholder process, but it was the leaders in each chamber who ultimately sponsored our bill, and we are extremely grateful for that. That bill passed the House on June 3 and has been signed into law by Gov. Polis, giving aides access to healthcare benefits for the first time.
Frankly, we achieved more in our first three months as a union than we thought was possible, which gives me a lot of hope for what else we can accomplish. We’re currently positioning ourselves for growth in this fall’s off-year campaign season and working to define best labor practices for the campaign trail. We are also preparing to launch our first alumni recruitment campaign and having ongoing conversations with legislative leadership about additional changes to help the aide corps.
CP: Most unions tend to lean left, and so far, the guild is made up of people who work for Democrats. Is that set in stone, or do you think the guild will attract Republican campaign workers and legislative aides?
Davis: From the beginning, we have insisted on the guild being nonpartisan. The fact is, everyone who works in politics is a partisan of one stripe or another, and we want to represent any of them who want to be represented by us. Like any union, we are unified by the unique challenges of our industry, and I know that Republican campaigns and Republican legislative aides can benefit from fair labor practices just like Democratic ones can.
As for whether or not we will attract Republican members, I’m confident that we will. Our membership roster is private, and you can’t see me winking, but we have had some incredibly productive conversations with Republican staffers. We met with (House) Minority Leader (Hugh) McKean early in the process, and he assured us that no Republican aides would be barred from joining.
At the end of the day, we stand for the inherent value of labor, and that means we believe every bit as much in the value of Republican labor as Democratic labor. Any worker who shares that value with us is more than welcome to stand with us.
Candidly, it’s also a fact of life that bad bosses know no party, and that the power dynamics in the political field can often make it nearly impossible for staffers to stand up for themselves without destroying their careers. No one should have to work in conditions like that, including Republican staffers. The guild has already had success mediating conflicts between staff and management, so to speak, and that’s a helping hand that we’re willing to lend to any of our members, regardless of party.
CP: You’ve been working on campaigns and political organizing in Colorado since moving from Tennessee eight years ago. What led you to this kind of work?
Davis: There’s an old adage that it’s impolite to talk about politics or religion, but I was raised in a home where those were essentially the only topics ever discussed. I grew up in Nashville as the son of a preacher and realized pretty quickly that the core of my father’s job wasn’t oratory, it was diplomacy. During my childhood, I had this front row seat to watch my dad mediate disputes between factions or build coalitions around ideas and all of these other things that are really about organizing people towards a goal. That’s politics.
Outside of those familial influences, the thing that led me to political work was my age. I was born at exactly the right time to grow up on either side of 9/11. I got to spend a childhood in the post-Cold War “end of history,” and then I got to watch history start up again. I watched my cousins deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan to fight in wars which never should have started. I watched the bottom drop out of the world economy when I was a senior in high school — and at a certain point I had to accept that there was no guarantee that things would be fine, or that the world would work out. I knew that I needed to be a participant, not just an observer. That’s what led me to work for the Democratic Party of Tennessee in 2012, and it’s what still gets me out of bed every morning.
CP: What are some of the campaigns you’ve worked on?
Davis: I am fortunate to have worked in municipalities up and down the Front Range and in every targeted legislative district in the state in one capacity or another, as a campaign manager, an opposition researcher, or a general consultant. The race that is closest to my heart is when I managed (state Rep.) Tony Exum in 2016. Tony and I came out of that race with a deep bond which has lasted ever since, and he’s still the yardstick by which I measure other public servants. Election night of 2016 was rough for a lot of people, myself included, but I knew that at least one good man had been elected that night, and that got me through a lot of what followed.
Last year, I served as the deputy director of the House Majority Project [the state House Democrats’ campaign operation], which was a great experience. In that capacity I handled the direct mail programs for all 23 of our targeted seats and managed the two dozen campaign managers who we placed in races around the state. HMP is a great organization, and I’m a big fan of how [executive director] Matt McGovern has run it for the past three cycles. Matt is also a close friend, and it was great getting to work so closely with him after having spent the 2018 cycle on opposite sides of various campaign finance firewalls.
My career path has never quite been a straight line. I’m a sucker for a good cause, and there are few things I love like a fight worth picking, so I’ve spent much of the past few years zigzagging around the Front Range looking for opportunities that excite me. Somehow this scenic route has led me to about 50 wins and only six losses — but I’ll be the first to admit that I got lucky more than once.
CP: What do you do to keep busy in odd-numbered years?
Davis: Off-years are when I have the most fun. Because of the absence of large-scale, statewide campaigns, off-years let me assemble my own roster of clients and projects that I really want to pursue, which typically falls into one of three categories: candidate work, strategic communications, and opposition research.
For candidate work I tend to focus on the smaller municipal races along the Front Range. In 2019, for instance, I served as the general consultant for a slate of city council candidates in Broomfield. We won every seat. I’m hoping to replicate that success later this year in a handful of other suburbs where there is room for progressive change, but you’ll have to wait to find out where. These council slates don’t make for particularly lucrative work or anything, but I think it’s an important project and it’s one I am going to keep pursuing for as long as I can. There is so much good work to be done at the local level, and we need good people in office to do it.
Strategic communications work keeps me busy during the legislative session, where I help various coalitions, nonprofits, and lobby groups shape messaging and pitch stories.
And then there’s the good stuff: opposition research. In previous off-years, this was the smallest part of my portfolio — but in 2021 so far, I have more requests for research than I can keep up with. A lot of people are already trying to get their ducks in a row for CD 8 and the next Denver mayoral race, and that has given me a lot of opportunity to research potential candidates for those races. As usual with oppo, it’s not a crystal ball, and I can’t tell you what is going to happen in those races — but I can tell you that they’re sure as hell going to be interesting.