Ex-staffers of Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign are accusing the former New York City mayor of offering false promises of job security through the November election no matter what happened to his candidacy—as they now grapple with unemployment amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Bloomberg, who suspended his campaign after a sole Super Tuesday win in American Samoa, immediately endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for the Democratic nominee. And the campaign proceeded to go back on promises of retaining staff, according to class-action lawsuits already being filed or proposed.
Former staffers on his campaign spoke out this week, blasting him for laying off most of his campaign despite assurances that the jobs would last through the general election.
“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, laptops, cellphones,” Amol Jethwani, an ex-Bloomberg regional organizing director, told NPR this week.
Jethwani also told NPR that in his role, he gave the same promises to prospective staffers, that “employment is guaranteed through November, location is not.”
Another ex-staffer told NPR much of the same, saying he did not know if he would have left his secure job “if it weren’t for that specific guarantee, because I knew I wanted to work on the general election.”
Hundreds of staffers were let go after Bloomberg dropped out of the race early last month.
Multiple Bloomberg campaign staffers told Fox News that they received their last paycheck by March 31, as they had only been on the payroll through the end of the month.
Staffers also told Fox News that there were additional taxes taken out for “imputed income,” presumably for campaign-issued devices. Each staffer had at least an additional $400 taken out of their paychecks.
Staffers told Fox News that they received an email on March 9 that warned them that they would have to pay taxes on their campaign-issued devices, like cellphones and laptops.
“As a token of our appreciation, we are offering you the opportunity to keep your laptop and iPhone,” the campaign memo, obtained by Fox News, read. “Approximately 24 hours after your last day with the campaign, your devices will be restored to their factory settings.”
“If you decide to keep your laptop or phone, the fair market value of these items will be considered taxable income,” they continued, noting it would be included in staffers’ 2020 tax documents. “Please note that there will not be a gross-up of your compensation for the related taxes for the items that you keep and you will be responsible for all related taxes.”
The campaign then reportedly encouraged staff to then apply to work for Bloomberg’s organization in battleground states.
But Bloomberg went on to give $18 million to the Democratic National Committee for the party’s efforts in swing states, and vowed to continue his work to defeat President Trump in November.
Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey, in a statement to NPR this week, said that the campaign was "fulfilling Mike's promise to defeat Donald Trump in November,” specifically in battleground states.
"We reached out to every single organizing staffer in those six states as well as others and asked them to consider continuing this work through November, with the DNC, in those states or others the DNC is prioritizing," Sheekey told NPR.
”Already, hundreds of former Bloomberg campaign staff have been contacted and are in the hiring pipeline to join the DNC organizing efforts — which would not have happened without this campaign's transfer of funds,” he added.
Former staffers who worked as field organizers have meanwhile pursued class-action lawsuits claiming that Bloomberg reneged on promises to pay them through November, whether or not he won the nomination.
Donna Wood, who worked as a field organizer, noted that many employees left their previous jobs in order to work on the campaign with the understanding that they would continue to be paid until November's election and receive full health care benefits for themselves and their families. Nevertheless, she claimed, the campaign "terminated the vast majority" of workers in her position and others, leaving a number of them without insurance as coronavirus spreads across the country.
"Defendant's termination of [field organizers] 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," said Wood's complaint, filed in Manhattan federal court.
“People are going from a pretty generous health care benefit to projected 20 to 30 percent unemployment," Wood's attorney Sally J. Abrahamson said in a statement to Fox News.
That class-action suit has grown from one plaintiff, Wood, to nearly 80, according to NPR.
A Bloomberg campaign spokesperson told Fox News in a statement that the campaign paid workers "wages and benefits that were much more generous than any other campaign this year," as well as "several weeks of severance and health care through March, something no other campaign did this year. “
The statement went on to say that health benefits will be extended due to coronavirus.
"Given the current crisis, a fund is being created to ensure that all staff receive health care through April, which no other campaign has done," the statement said. "And many field staff will go on to work for the DNC in battleground states, in part because the campaign made the largest monetary transfer to the DNC from a presidential campaign in history to support the DNC’s organizing efforts."
The U.S. economy was reported to have lost 701,000 jobs in March, snapping a decade-long record of employment growth, as strict measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic shuttered businesses and forced Americans to stay at home. Those numbers, however, don't reflect the full scale of job losses that exploded over the last two weeks.
It was the first decline in payrolls since September 2010, and the steepest since March 2009, in the midst of the Great Recession. The unemployment rate jumped to 4.4 percent, up from a half-century low of 3.5 percent in February.
Fox Business' Megan Henney contributed to this report.