Bloomberg sued by former field organizers in two class-action lawsuits

Former staffers claim they were told they would have jobs through November

March 23, 2020, 9:06 PM

A group of former field organizers for Mike Bloomberg's presidential campaign filed two class-action lawsuits on Monday alleging that the billionaire former presidential candidate reneged on his pledge to pay organizers across the country through November.

Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York city, suspended his campaign in March after a poor Super Tuesday showing, but had vowed to keep his offices open through November.

On Friday he transferred $18 million from his campaign to the Democratic National Committee, choosing to throw his weight behind the party apparatus instead of fielding his own operation in support of the Democratic nominee in six key swing states.

One of the lawsuits claims Bloomberg and his campaign “unceremoniously dumped thousands of staffers, leaving them with no employment, no income, and no health insurance” during “the worst global pandemic since 1918, [and] in the face of a looming economic crisis.”

In response to the lawsuits, Bloomberg campaign representatives defended the benefits and generous pay offered to staff during the campaign and through the end of March.

"This campaign paid its staff wages and benefits that were much more generous than any other campaign this year. 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," a campaign spokesperson said.

The three plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in New York City -- Alexis Sklair, Sterling Rettke, and Nathaniel Brown -- worked as field organizers in Georgia, Washington and Utah, respectively.

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg greets supporters during his Super Tuesday night rally in West Palm Beach, Fla., March 3, 2020.
Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg greets supporters during his Super Tuesday night rally in West Palm Beach, Fla., March 3, 2020.
Maria Alejandra Cardona/Reuters, FILE

Their lawsuit claims they and other staffers agreed to work for the former New York City mayor because they were promised employment during both the primary and general elections, with the understanding that the Bloomberg campaign would continue to support its field offices through November.

“The Mike Bloomberg 2020 hiring managers at the campaign headquarters made such statements to field staff applicants, including the plaintiffs, when conducting initial interviews of staffers before such staffers interviewed with regional field directors,” the lawsuit claims.

In a joint statement, Peter Romer-Friedman, Ilaan Maazel and David Berman, the attorneys representing the three plaintiffs, said their clients would like to speak publicly about their experiences, but "are potentially subject to a confidentiality and non-disparagement agreement with Mike Bloomberg 2020." They also requested the Bloomberg campaign release their clients and other field staffers from this agreement.

The second lawsuit, from former field organizer Donna Wood, alleges that campaign staff were not paid for working overtime. “Bloomberg made a misrepresentation of material fact by repeatedly stating, both verbally and in writing, that employees would be employed by Bloomberg through November 2020,” Wood alleges in the lawsuit.

Justin Swartz, an attorney representing Wood, told ABC News that additional staffers are seeking to join the lawsuit since it was filed Monday morning.

"Apparently, a lot of people are disappointed in Mr. Bloomberg and very angry about how they were treated," he told ABC News. “Right now Mr. Bloomberg is probably one of the few people in [the country] who could afford to pay his employees healthcare.”

On Monday, the campaign spokesperson also said, "a fund is being created to ensure that all staff receive healthcare through April," in light of the coronavirus outbreak. The campaign had said on Friday that only staff in the battleground states would receive benefits and pay through the end of April.

The spokesperson added that "many field staff" would go on to work for the DNC following Bloomberg's $18 million contribution, but it's unclear how the DNC plans to staff its general election operation and whether it will absorb Bloomberg's large field operation.

Asked if the party would seek to hire Bloomberg staffers following his contribution to the committee, a Democratic official told ABC News the DNC is "working with every former primary presidential campaign to facilitate the transition of their infrastructure into supporting Democrats’ general election efforts -- including staffing, fundraising, and other relevant elements of the campaign programs."