Bloomberg Campaign Staffers Speak Out, Alleging Broken Promises Mike Bloomberg's presidential bid didn't last long, but he promised staffers jobs through November. Now some who were abruptly laid off during a pandemic are detailing how they say they were misled.

'Mike Borrowed My Credibility And Abused It': Fired Bloomberg Campaign Workers Speak

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Mike Bloomberg's presidential campaign was one of the most expensive in history. He ended it after a dismal performance on Super Tuesday one month ago today. The former New York mayor still promised to keep his operation running through the general election and to invest more than a billion dollars to defeat President Trump. But then hundreds of Bloomberg field organizers were abruptly fired last month. Three of them are now sharing their stories. They talked with NPR's Juana Summers.

JUANA SUMMERS, BYLINE: When Mike Bloomberg launched his presidential campaign, he hired an enormous network of staff across the country, showering them with salaries that far exceeded what other candidates were paying. He also offered them something else - a job through the general election no matter what.

AMOL JETHWANI: They offered an incredible benefits package, which is unheard of for field staff, offering $8,000 a month for a regional role in addition to health care, technology, a laptop, cellphone.

SUMMERS: That's Amol Jethwani, who joined Bloomberg's campaign in Miami-Dade County as a regional organizing director in December. He said those guarantees, unheard of on campaigns, made a job with Bloomberg incredibly attractive. Part of his job was to interview potential staff.

JETHWANI: And as part of our hiring guidelines was to utilize the line that employment is guaranteed through November; location is not.

SUMMERS: That promise was part of what convinced Matthew Jeweler in Denver to quit the IT job he'd worked at for 10 years.

MATTHEW JEWELER: I honestly don't know if I would have taken the job if it weren't for that specific guarantee because I knew I wanted to work on the general election.

SUMMERS: Bloomberg dropped out of the race shortly after Super Tuesday. Then there were two rounds of layoffs. In the first round, hundreds of staffers across the country were let go, told that they'd be paid through March 31. They were encouraged to apply to work for Bloomberg's organization in battleground states. Then Bloomberg abandoned his plans to form a new independent entity and announced that he would instead give $18 million to the Democratic National Committee for the party's battleground states program. Donna Wood in Miami lost her job on a March 20 conference call.

DONNA WOOD: And it was read off a script from HR and then the call just ended. It was like, goodbye. You can hang up now.

SUMMERS: In a statement, Bloomberg's campaign manager Kevin Sheekey told NPR the campaign reached out to every organizing staffer in six battleground states as well as others and asked them to consider working with the DNC. Sheekey said hundreds of former Bloomberg campaign staff have been contacted and are in the hiring pipeline to join the DNC's organizing efforts, something he insists would not have happened without the campaign's massive donations to the party. But staffers were let go without guarantees. I asked Amol Jethwani about conversations he had with potential campaign staff where he promised continuous employment through November.

JETHWANI: Mike borrowed my credibility and abused it in that moment. We want people like Mike to know and the people in the party who benefit from Mike's philanthropy to know that it is not OK to just discard us as though, you know, we're a mere tool.

SUMMERS: Former field organizers for Bloomberg's campaign have filed potential class-action lawsuits where these complaints have been detailed in court documents. Donna Wood filed the first breach of contract suit. It's now grown from one plaintiff to roughly 80.

WOOD: I just know what I was promised, and I'm a woman of my word, and I would just think that other people would be the same if you repeatedly tell someone something and assure them that they still have their job and assure them that you'll be transitioning to an independent expenditure that that would happen.

SUMMERS: Another potential class-action lawsuit was filed by former campaign workers in Georgia, Utah and Washington. While the former workers say Bloomberg's campaign promised them continued employment, they acknowledge that they signed at will contracts, meaning they could be let go at any time. Matthew Jeweler in Denver.

JEWELER: The point isn't the contract that we signed that says at will. It's the countless conversations that 2,000 former staffers had with hiring people who all said you have a guaranteed job through November. It's written on official interview documents that they use internally.

SUMMERS: Many staffers, including Jeweler, expressed frustration that Bloomberg funded the most expensive primary campaign in history.

JEWELER: The man spent $500 million on ads alone in a four-month period. He could spend 10% of that and give every single one of his field staff their entire salary for the remainder of the year.

SUMMERS: The campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said that staff worked 39 days on average and were given several weeks of severance and health care through March. The campaign has also established a fund to cover health care costs through the month of April, something Sheekey says no other campaign has done. Bloomberg's campaign hopes that in time many staffers will be hired by the DNC. Juana Summers, NPR News.

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