Staffers of former presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg are staring down the possibility of losing their jobs and health care in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic.
When he joined the race last year, the billionaire said he would employ his campaign staff through the November election, even if he weren’t the nominee. But Bloomberg dropped out after a poor showing on Super Tuesday, and he has since fired staffers in multiple waves. His campaign had announced earlier in March that it would launch an independent expenditure group to take on Trump that would employ former campaign staffers in swing states.
Instead of creating his own organization in swing states, Bloomberg’s campaign said on Friday, he will donate $18 million to the Democratic National Committee — allowing the party to potentially hire organizers themselves.
That means many Bloomberg organizers are out of a job. Organizers in six swing states were informed this morning that they were being let go and given instructions for applying to the DNC.
“He’s chopping his employees in a pandemic,” said one staffer in Florida, who asked to remain anonymous because they had signed a nondisclosure agreement. “My life is now uprooted and I’m effectively homeless.”
Another staffer in North Carolina said he and many other former campaign employees were "completely blindsided" by the news on Friday that they were losing their jobs. "It's fucking scary," he said of the thought of staffers losing health care in the middle of the pandemic.
A Bloomberg campaign spokesperson said that staffers in the six battleground states who were supposed to be part of the former candidate's now-aborted group “will be employed and paid through the first week in April and have full benefits through the end of April.”
The Florida staffer, who had previously been on Medicaid, moved to a swing state on the promise of a stable, well-paying job through November. Without their own place to live, the staffer said, they planned to stay with family to wait out the coronavirus outbreak.
Bloomberg had already broken a promise of employment through November to some of the vast army of organizers he had hired throughout his three-month presidential campaign, on which he spent a record $687 million of his personal fortune. Staffers who were not in swing states were let go earlier this month.
But at the time, said the Florida staffer, they were still under the impression they would be employed by a Bloomberg campaign entity. “We got the message, ‘Hey don’t worry, you guys are fine.'”
The Bloomberg spokesperson said staffers were being encouraged to apply to work for the DNC: “The DNC Coordinated Campaign is hiring in every one of the six battleground states we identified — and more. And we will assist the DNC as much as we are able to, including by providing names of staff and working to help them onboard and grow their program as expediently as possible.”
Staffers in swing states learned they were being let go on a call on Friday morning by campaign states director Dan Kanninen and human resources representative Katherine Sayers. According to a script for the call, Kanninen informed the organizers of the decision to donate to the DNC instead of creating an independent expenditure group, saying a separate group “would simply not be as effective or efficient in our goal of defeating Donald Trump in November.”
“We want as many of the organizing team from Mike2020 as possible to join the DNC’s effort — and we have designed a structure to facilitate the process for those who express interest,” Kanninen said, according to the call script.
Employees learned they had five days to apply for DNC jobs in order to be considered. Sayers, the HR representative, told them to fill out a Google Form no later than March 25, even if they had “previously noted interest in future opportunities as part of your off-boarding last week."
The Google Form will not guarantee Bloomberg staffers a job with the DNC. Instead, their information will be "fed into a competitive hiring process," Sayers told staffers on the phone call, "and you will hear from the DNC on that process and next steps. We will do everything possible to help them hire and onboard their new staff as expediently as possible."
“There will be an application process,” the DNC official said on Friday. “Bloomberg organizers can apply.”
The DNC official declined to say exactly how many jobs will open as a result of the transfer but said the $18 million will allow the party to hire “hundreds” of new organizers for its existing “Battleground Build-Up 2020” program, which funds offices and field organizers across 12 states that will be critical in the general election.
$18 million marks a significant influx of cash for the DNC.
The Democratic Party routinely lags in fundraising behind the GOP, with Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee bringing in more than $100 million last quarter. Joe Biden, the candidate best positioned to clinch the Democratic nomination this summer, is still in the midst of professionalizing his field and fundraising programs for the general election.
Bloomberg previously discussed spending up to $1 billion of his own money to help defeat Trump.
On the call with employees, Kanninen said Bloomberg campaign leadership had made the choice not to create a separate independent expenditure organization or super PAC, a move that may limit his spending in the future.
The $18 million transfer, a small fraction of what he’s discussed spending in the past, is the first money Bloomberg has publicly pledged since dropping out of the race two weeks ago.
“There are good people out there that left their jobs behind to go work for a candidate that honestly most of us didn’t believe in the first place,” said the former staffer in Florida. “We did it for the necessity. We did it for the job security.”