Four field organizers for billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg’s aborted presidential bid sued his campaign on Monday, arguing that they were fraudulently promised employment and healthcare through the November election.
“Thousands of people relied on that promise. They moved to other cities. They gave up school, jobs, and job opportunities. They uprooted their lives,” attorneys for three of the plaintiffs wrote in one of two class-action lawsuits filed in federal court in New York. “But the promise was false.”
After the former New York mayor dropped out of the race, the lawsuit argues, his campaign “unceremoniously dumped” the campaign staffers, leaving them without jobs, income or health insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic and as the nation teeters on recession.
One of the field organizers also sued for not being paid overtime.
The Bloomberg campaign responded by saying its staffers were generously compensated, and announced plans to create a fund to provide healthcare coverage for all former campaign workers through the end of April.
“This campaign paid its staff wages and benefits that were much more generous than any other campaign this year,” according to a Bloomberg representative. “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.”
Bloomberg, who is one of the richest people in the world, announced in November that he was running for president. His late entry into the contest meant he had little time to build a robust campaign staff. He threw money at the problem, lavishly paying political operatives across the nation. Bloomberg also offered a job guarantee that was unprecedented in politics — that he would hire them through the November general election, even if he wasn’t the Democratic nominee. All of this, he said, was part of his overarching goal — defeating President Trump.
Bloomberg, after a dismal performance on Super Tuesday, ended his campaign this month and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. The businessman was expected to continue pouring his fortune into the race and to swing his extensive field organization behind Biden. Bloomberg had spent more than $935 million on his own presidential bid through Feb. 29, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.
Last week, Bloomberg 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.
Former Bloomberg staffers in those offices would be paid through the first week of April, and could apply for jobs in these offices but would have no advantage over other applicants, according to DNC officials. Other staffers, who served at will, were let go this month.
These terminations directly contradict what the employees were promised when they were hired by the campaigns, according to the lawsuits.
One was filed by field organizers Alexis Sklair in Georgia, Sterling Rettke in Washington state and Nathaniel Brown in Utah, who say the promise of continued employment led them to sign with the Bloomberg campaign and turn down other opportunities, including other jobs and applying for law school.
The other suit was filed by field organizer Donna Wood, who also 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. Her suit also alleges that field organizers and others were promised employment through the general election.
“We’re very surprised that someone who seems to be as concerned about his legacy as Mr. Bloomberg would end his highest-profile political venture by disappointing so many people that worked so hard for him,” said Justin Swartz, one of Wood’s attorneys.