The 2020 Democratic primary campaign season has been interesting, if abbreviated, but perhaps not nearly as intriguing and short-lived as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s candidacy for the nomination that ended in disappointment for the candidate and apparent job losses for his staff.
Now a lawsuit by that very same staff is alleging that the multimedia mogul and billionaire many times over owes them wages for the abrupt termination of their jobs which were apparently guaranteed through November 2020. The former employees not only allege that they were promised employment through the duration of the campaign season but also highlight their lack of work while a worldwide pandemic in the form of COVID-19 makes finding other employment difficult if not impossible.
The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and reads in part, “They promised salaries nearly double that of other campaign and they pledged to keep this promise regardless of whether Bloomberg won the Democratic nomination.”
Filed by field organizers Alexis Sklair, Sterling Rettke and Nathaniel Brown on behalf of the whole class of workers for Bloomberg’s failed bid, the former employees highlight that the campaign not only promised to pay them through the season but also enticed them away from other jobs – campaigning or otherwise – with pay rates that were often double that of Bloomberg’s competitors’ staff salaries. Bloomberg had bet the house on an innovative, though unsuccessful, digital strategy that blanketed the airwaves and the Internet with ads for the candidate.
The proof was in the pudding, however, on “Super Tuesday” March 3 as the former mayor’s vaunted strategy fell flat on its face, failing to change the face of presidential campaigning forever and not getting Bloomberg any closer to the White House. As part of a general consolidation around Joe Biden, Bloomberg then dropped out of the race following the disappointing results and endorsed Obama’s former VP.
While Bloomberg pledged to support and help finance whoever the eventual nominate was, and made good on that with an $18 million transfer to the Democratic National Committee, but did not arrange for staff to stay employed in some capacity. A separate complaint, filed by organizer Donna Wood, also alleges that she was let go despite promises to the contrary. A lawsuit filed by Sklair, Rettke and Brown seeks punitive damages while the two other complaints are seeking class-action certification.
The campaign refrained from commenting directly on the pending litigation but highlighted its generous pay and severance. The campaign responded to the allegations, telling Reuters, “Staff worked 39 days on average, but they were also given several weeks of severance and healthcare through March, something no other campaign did this year.” The news agency also reports that Bloomberg’s campaign is attempting to arrange extended healthcare coverage for former employees through the month of April in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.