Michael Bloomberg’s unsuccessful presidential campaign is being sued by four former organizers, after backing out of a promise to employ staffers through the November election.
Alexis Sklair in Georgia, Sterling Rettke in Washington state and Nathaniel Brown in Utah filed a proposed class-action lawsuit on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The complaint states that the campaign fraudulently enticed staffers to join the campaign by offering staffers unusually large salaries and by promising them jobs through the end of election season, regardless of the outcome.
Some staff had moved to new states for the campaign, receiving stipends to relocate for what they had expected would be nearly a year.
“Thousands of people relied on that promise. They moved to other cities. They gave up school, jobs, and job opportunities. They uprooted their lives,” the complaint alleged. “But the promise was false.”
The lawsuit is one of two proposed class-action lawsuits against the campaign. Donna Wood, an organizer in Miami, also filed a proposed class-action lawsuit on Monday.
Wood’s complaint also alleged that the Bloomberg campaign enticed field organizers with a promise of employment through November. Additionally, Wood alleges that she and other staffers routinely worked more than 40 hours per week and were never paid overtime, a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
“Defendant’s termination of FOs and other campaign employees deprived them of promised income and health care benefits, leaving them and their families potentially uninsured in the face of a global pandemic,” Wood claimed in her complaint.
Bloomberg, who is one of the richest people in the world, announced in November that he was running for president. A late entrant to the Democratic Party’s nominating race, he spent lavishly, seeking to assuage concerns about his timing.
The Bloomberg campaign offered staffers salaries that were substantially higher than rival campaigns. Field organizers were offered $6,000 a month, nearly double the $3,500 that other campaigns paid.
The Bloomberg campaign also offered a job guarantee that was unprecedented in politics: employment through the general election, even if the candidate dropped out of the race. All of this, Bloomberg stated, was part of his overarching goal — defeating President Trump.
Hiring materials used by the Bloomberg campaign promised prospective employees "employment through November 2020 with Team Bloomberg," although signed contracts "stipulated that employment was at-will, allowing for termination at any time." The former staffers "argue in the lawsuit that they can bring these claims based on evidence that they were induced to sign on because of the longevity promises made to them."
Ultimately, Bloomberg spent more than $935 million of his own money on the failed bid. He abruptly exited the race after a dismal performance on Super Tuesday, the first time his name appeared on ballots.
Upon his withdrawal from the race, Bloomberg officials said the former New York mayor would continue to employ many of his campaign’s field staff through an independent political action committee (“PAC”), in support of the Democratic nominee.
On Friday, Bloomberg field organizers were laid off from their jobs. Bloomberg subsequently announced that he was transferring $18 million from his presidential campaign to the Democratic National Committee, and transferring his offices in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to the state Democratic parties in those states rather than form an independent super PAC as planned.
Former Bloomberg staffers in those offices were informed that they could re-apply for their old jobs, but would have no advantage over other applicants. Former staffers blasted Bloomberg last week after he announced he was backing out of his super PAC plan, with one publicly stating, "I'm so sorry I worked for this guy."
In an email, the Bloomberg campaign claimed that the employment guarantees were only for staff in “six battleground states” where the ex-mayor will be focusing the majority of his resources to help defeat Trump: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
But a Bloomberg staffer countered that the job security guarantee had been extended to all staffers. “I didn’t think I was going to have to apply for a job,” the staffer said. “It was presented as being automatic. Field organizers were told during job interviews that they had a guaranteed job through November.”
Fired staffers won’t be leaving empty-handed, though. “We sincerely appreciate your commitment and dedication over the past few months!” read an email to fired staffers. “As a token of our appreciation, we are offering you the opportunity to keep your laptop and iPhone.”
The email specified the value of those devices — ranging from $1,400 to $1,700, and noted that employees would be required to pay taxes on those amounts.
Both lawsuits, which must first be approved as a class action by the court, seek overtime as well as full pay and benefits through the November election for Wood and other employees. The lawsuit filed by Sklair, Rettke and Brown seeks punitive damages.