Just three weeks ago, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan published an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune acknowledging his mistakes in handling claims of harassment and retaliation in Springfield and promising to be better in addressing such issues going forward. Madigan asserted that “harassment of any kind and workplace bullying will simply not be tolerated — period.”
Yesterday, news broke that ten African-American and Latino employees of the Pritzker campaign have filed a lawsuit against JB Pritzker for Governor accusing the campaign of discrimination and harassment. Madigan has been silent on the issue.
Illinois Republican Party Executive Director Travis Sterling issued the following in response:
“Much like his hand-picked candidate for Governor, Michael Madigan is a hypocrite. Just three weeks ago, Madigan claimed to the people of Illinois that he was making it ‘a personal mission to take this issue head-on’. Now that a lawsuit has been filed against his Democratic gubernatorial candidate alleging racial discrimination and harassment, where is Madigan?” - Illinois Republican Party Executive Director Travis Sterling
I asked the Democratic Party of Illinois for comment yesterday and didn’t get anything. I also asked all three of the Anti-Harassment, Equality and Access Panel for comment and either didn’t hear back (Sen. Melinda Bush and Comptroller Susana Mendoza) or was told she had no comment (Rep. Carol Ammons).
This is Little’s first foray into political campaigns. He’s otherwise passionate about education and has considered running for alderman of the 18th Ward. In July, he took a job as a field organizer for Pritzker’s gubernatorial campaign, a position that doesn’t require a degree so much as the patience and fortitude to talk to as many people as possible about the candidate. In this job, you don’t get to raise your hand and influence policy. For better or worse, it’s like the Army: you do what you’re told. Little had the added duty of organizing meet-and-greets on the West Side. Over the past three months, he’s been frustrated that his accomplishments have been overlooked. “I felt silence, I was ignored, and I was unfairly treated” compared to white staffers, he said. “Everyone deserves a work environment free of discrimination and harassment.”
A few weeks ago, Little talked to attorney Shay Allen at an event for Level Up & Vote. Little and Allen, a former prosecutor turned private attorney, both support the get-out-the-vote effort. Little vented about his campaign job, and that led to bigger conversations with other campaign staffers and soon a lawsuit was born. Allen and fellow attorney Jeannette Samuels , with plaintiff’s agreement, came up with the demand for $7.5 million. In a civil lawsuit, “there’s no formula” on how you quantify someone’s “self-respect,” Allen told POLITICO. He also cited emotional distress and “missed opportunities to progress in the campaign” as factors in coming up with the damages number.
All I can figure is this is an opening salvo in a battle between party factions assuming the elections a done deal. That’s the only explanation I can figure for young party activists doing what would otherwise be a career breaker.
It is too soon to judge if the lawsuit has any merits, but what a bad set of headlines for J.B. Pritzker. How did he not seeing this coming and try to minimize the problems within his own organization earlier?
In a sense, this reminds me of Pritzker’s failed campaign to replace Sidney Yates in the US Congress. He had a ton of cash and many advantages over his two opponents (State Representative Jan Schakowsky and State Senator Howard Carroll), but somehow he managed to finish third.
While they have the elusive Mike Madigan in front of a microphone, perhaps they can ask him what the income tax rates will have to be for the middle class to pay for all of the progressive programs his party and nominee are proposing
- Grandson of Man - Thursday, Oct 18, 18 @ 9:41 am:
“I felt silence, I was ignored, and I was unfairly treated” compared to white staffers, he said. “Everyone deserves a work environment free of discrimination and harassment.”
I would like to know specifically what happened, and who did it.
Also, per an article, the Pritzker campaign booked multiple hotel rooms for the Peoria worker, contradicting her story.
FM: you are right. But waiting for the EEOC to issue it’s right to sue letter would mean the lawsuit couldn’t be filed until after the election. So they rushed to the court house and filed the claim under Section 1981 which is less advantageous for the plaintiffs. Why?
Attorney Allen: what “horrible” things happened? And why didn’t you include them in your complaint?
Plaaintiff Maxwell’s grievances sound pretty weak. How does this guy feel that he is owed financial damages? Because his work wasn’t recognized to an equal extent to other non minorities working in the campaign? Obviously his first job in a large campaign.
This whole dust up and lawsuit srtikes me as a case of “I didn’t get my participation trophy.” Pritzker just reaping what Dem party has sown.
- The Dude Abides - Thursday, Oct 18, 18 @ 9:49 am:
I have to laugh at the GOP feigning outrage and demanding action by Madigan over this. I don’t think any campaign is really equipped to deal with a situation like this. This is going to have to wind its way thru the court. Those expecting something to happen quickly are going to be disappointed. I don’t think Madigan knows much more about what really happened to these campaign workers than we do.
Henry Francis While I agree with you that filing under 1981 was to ensure the complaint was filed before the election, there is another advantage to a 1981 claim over a Title VII claim, namely no cap on damages.
Forgetting the Raunerite press releases for the time being…
To the Post,
I’ve been especially hard on this Pritzker Crew these past couple weeks. The reason, besides the obvious that they are unforced errors at different levels of negligence, is that if Pritzker becomes our next governor, this pattern should trouble anyone looking for a better managed governing.
To this issue, I stated yesterday… how can a campaign spend $146 million to reach out to voters and seemingly have no idea that paid staffers are so unhappy?
It’s one thing to appease, it quite another to put at ease.
Campaigns, for better or worse, are compared to organizations like an army or criminal outfit (Corleones) and no matter your flavor, those on the ground need to feel invested and “loved” by those Generals or Capos.
When sergeants, corporals, and privates feel ignored or worse, It’s up to the Captains, Majors, and Generals to lead.
These aren’t volunteers, they’re on the payroll, or moved, or put up in hotels, paid their way to retreats…
It was said that the campaign is so big, how could they…
… well, Illinois isn’t getting smaller. The budget is $38+ billion, with dozens of agencies, thousands of state workers.
You can’t trust that you’ll get the pulse of what’s going on in a campaign, the most expensive, that spends $300,000 a day, how can that chain of command keep things from dropping like that lawsuit?
There’s a real lacking to detail and/or grasping how things can (and do) blow up, and leaving things to backfire when addressing things head-on, and grasping, quite quick, an understanding that in a campaign, you can win ignoring this, blowing off that, but agency work? How about policy facts? Maybe a rollout or implementation?
Campaigns are hard, governing is difficult. You can’t ignore pitfalls or people. We’ve seen both happen.
If you’re of the belief… “So what, they’ll still win”…
… and that may be true, and maybe at a greater margin then now… but after you win… you govern.
Will we see these errors, that are a pattern, in the governing?
This doesn’t sound like a racial issue sounds like a millennial issue.
“Why aren’t you validating every little thing I do and telling me I’m great?”
This is what happens when you give everyone a trophy growing up and say there are never any losers. In life people win and people lose it’s just the way it is. A whole generation of me, me, me. I get, I want, I need, I deserve, and it’s my right to get what I want no matter what. If you don’t give it to me it’s not my own fault it’s obviously your lack of intelligence in seeing how smart and good I am.
Henry - While there really is no formula to quantify self respect, the complaint presumably would have to reflect the initial demand of $7.5 million. If they filed under Title VII, the demand letter would appear to be just what it is, extortion.
This entire situation is hard to understand. Have Democrats reached a point where they all feel entitled to whatever they want? Who raised these whiners?
I’m actually very concerned about this. We could be seeing a generational shift. These young people seem to believe that their temporary jobs should satisfy their expectations of career enhancement. How did they get like this? It is unbelievably unrealistic.
You’d think they’d care about JB’s goals, or their party’s goals, or their community’s plight, instead of themselves. I’m astounded.
I hope whatever they’re thinking is quarentined and examined.
Adding, I don’t believe Pritzker is to blame. This is his first rodeo. His campaign support is hired out and paid well. There’s no way he has directed his campaign to abuse his supporters. He’s soft. I think he’s caught in a situation that I’m concerned may become more commonplace.
Never been a campaign worker and never will be, but maybe the Pritzker campaign (or any other campaign for that matter) needs to lay it on the line before hiring that:
You may need to stay at motels and not hotels in the course of your work. Some may be very standard and have few amenities. If you feel unsafe at your motel/hotel, this is who you call immediately ________.
I’ve worked with people who would flatly refuse to stay at a mom and pop motel or lower priced chain because they just couldn’t live without a suite or workout room or hot breakfast. You’re there to do a job, not take a vacation. If there’s a bed, bath, lock on the door, and no critters, sometimes that’s more than enough. After all, remember that some of the people you are trying to win over may not even have those “amenities”.
Agree with DuPage Bard as well. I and many others here I’m sure could launch into a ton of “in my day” stories about how we were treated in similar roles as teens or 20-somethings. I’m glad to see a movement to treat campaign staff better these days, but this may just take it to the extreme.
As for how the Dem elected officials should respond, a simple “The matter is in litigation, and if the plaintiffs satisfy the judge that their claims have merit they will get their day in court, as will the campaign. Until then it would be premature for me to comment one way or the other.” Simple. Done.
>Have Democrats reached a point where they all feel entitled to whatever they want? Who raised these whiners?
Oh, c’mon. They’re not really whining. The “wouldn’t visit the campaign office” lie is too transparent.
There are only two possibilities here - they believed they had a chance at a serious settlement with Pritzker for keeping it hush-hush, despite the weakness of their claims. Or they know they have a prospect of a serious payout from someone else for not keeping it hush-hush.
Unfortunately, when the shift from true volunteers shifted to “paid campaign workers”, the labor issues that labor deals with…comes with that. They’re employees. At least a dozen are very disgruntled. They feel entitled to something they’re not getting.
I wonder if any of the plaintiffs are state employees. State employees are trained in cases like this to bring these type of issues to management. Management must be givin oppertunity to address the complaint before EEOC. However I am not sure any dirrerence between title VII or 1981.
===Wonderful to learn from so many folks that the *real* problem here is my generation is too entitled.===
It’s not that many commenters saying that garbage, and I would encourage you to call them out by name. Seems to me it’s the usual suspects trying to blame this on something other than disgruntled employees in an industry where, if the employees aren’t disgruntled, they are doing it wrong.
Campaign work sucks. Always has, always will. Campaigns are only fun when you look back on them long after they are over.
My comment at 10:31 was pretty snotty (but in line with wordslinger’s sentiment, so I feel the point was valid.)
I’d just note that just about every major campaign or legislative effort over at least the past four years has had at least one millennial play an integral role- sometimes even as the candidate or sponsor.
I have a great deal of respect for older colleagues but the hardest-working campaigners, staffers and lobbyists I know are in their 20s and 30s.
===I question if the lawyers are the ones who are being naive.===
Wait until somebody explains to the plaintiffs what the federal discovery process entails. Those depositions can be pretty grueling and invasive and they can cover a lot of ground into one’s personal life.
I give no credibility to the idea that these folks are Rauner plants. The facts don’t pass the smell test on that.
The facts presented that the JB for Governor Campaign violated any law also doesn’t pass the smell test (to be formal, do not meet prima facie in cases such as these).
That said, these folks sound like they have workplace issues that are more than likely not related to race but employer employee relations. In the absence of a collective bargaining agreement, the employees are at the mercy, without a voice, of the employer. Some one here will say “boo-hoo that’s campaign work,” but I say no.
The progressive side of politics do not believe in that dynamic. True progressives believe in workers having a voice, having a process to address issues and the best way to do that is a Union.
Maybe, just maybe, Pritzker should have encouraged his employees to Unionize. Maybe he should have sat down with that Unions representatives and hammered out a contract. Maybe, he should have practiced what he preached.
My guess, this doesn’t lose him the election but it will, potentially, have an impact on the AG race with lower voter turnout. My guess is, if Erika Harold ends up winning this race, she should send a thank you note to JB’s campaign.
Oswego Willy “how can a campaign spend $146 million to reach out to voters and seemingly have no idea that paid staffers are so unhappy” true enough if most of the campaign staffers are unhappy, but how does the percent of unhappy employees compare to any other high-stress job? How many employees are there anyway?
===true enough if most of the campaign staffers are unhappy, but how does the percent of unhappy employees compare to any other high-stress job?===
Suing those other employers, will that change an election, or try to possibly embarrass a candidate or sully the reputation of senior campaign staff?
Campaigns are not like “The Office” or “Office Space”
You need it in your DNA to really like, enjoy, even love the rigors of being in a campaign. That’s why suing… for discrimination no less… 10 of them… When was the last time 10 paid campaign staffers sued the campaign for discrimination?
It’s an odd thing, but… it happened.
===How many employees are there anyway?===
I’m told… “too many to keep track of, it’s too big to control”.
That’s not the excuse the campaign is using so I’d hope it would stop being used here.
I’m just saying that you’ll probably find 10 employees in any office of 100 who are unhappy with their work or working conditions. It’s probably an easier decision to sue over it when it’s a temporary job that’s almost over and you can find an encouraging lawyer. I’m not even speculating about motives or whether they’re concerned with the larger impacts.
“In an industry based on relationships, trust, and knowing how nomadic campaigns are… suing… for discrimination… is like … top worst thing to do…”
You’re absolutely right. It is the worst thing they could do…if they recognize how our political world works. Maybe the do or maybe they were ginned up by one person who stoked their frustrations and convinced them this was the best course of action. Obviously it’s not but it’s not as if people don’t make bad decisions all the time. This was a doozy…especially given all the problems with this lawsuit and it’s underlying facts.
You forgot how grossly inept the Pritzker Crew is that 10 paid staffers sued, calling senior staff discriminatory, and that this coulda been headed off in the pass, but if the end goal, after messing up, is to embarrass Pritzker’s campaign, so far for two days, and make the senior staff do damage control as the press keeps asking about it…
I’m sure I’m right about that too…
…but you won’t hijack this to spin it a way you’d hope.
Gee whiz Willy. What evidence do you have that any of these ten ever complained to anyone in the campaign staff? You assume they must have because there are ten of them and they are suing, but I haven’t seen much evidence that anyone spoke up prior to dropping the letter on the campaign asking for money.
What info do you have that causes you to blame the campaign leadership? Something something private and corporals vs. generals and majors?
So, if this turns out to be an attempt at extortion, what will be the fallout for the ILGOP for cheerleading such an effort? The ILGOP is going to be tied even more tightly to “Lock her up” Trump. Perhaps the ILGOP should look before they leap to conclusions on a flawed lawsuit.
For months and months, they let the property tax fester, until a report comes out, “scheme to defraud”… not one person thought, “let’s just stop all this, pay the $340K, and move on”. Note they spend $300,000 a day now… but…
You’re saying there’s 200 paid staff, 5% disgruntled, you said…
===Based on my experience, that’s a low percentage.===
With your experience, which I respect, as you should know by now, how many others had any percentage sue, especially for discrimination, the senior staff. Im guessing an even lower percentage.
Also, if there are 200, and you’re saying also “who complained”… you have 200 people working and “no one knew” these 10 were disgruntled? How’s that communication going? It appears not too great, if you’re telling me no one knew, even with the moving of one from hotel to hotel like a “George Kaplan”, it got to a federal lawsuit?
After the 8th and the letter… and now the others *still* working in the campaign, is that a dysfunction or typical?
In the end, it might not matter, and those 10 sealed their own fate, but if I’m looking at things, just those two, I have to wonder what governing could be.
I hope, if Pritzker does win, it’s better, as we as a state deserve it.
With respect, anybody can file a lawsuit. You are giving these allegations way too much credence. There are already holes in the story and more are undoubtedly on the way. I don’t think these plaintiffs fully understood what they signed up for when the agreed to file suit. The closer this gets to a federal judge, the more they will regret having anything to do with it.
This is still a first I can think of like this. You?
===You are giving these allegations way too much credence===
I’m not, I’m looking at what’s going on far more than what is in this thing. It’s apparently from 10 paid staffers, who wanted to be heard? The frivolousness seems more frustrated anger than anything.
===I don’t think these plaintiffs fully understood what they signed up for when the agreed to file suit. The closer this gets to a federal judge, the more they will regret having anything to do with it.===
That we agree. The case, what it could entail, the fallout…
I just go back, tough to see how this couldn’t have been ether cut off at the pass, or… all I’ve stated before.
===This is still a first I can think of like this.===
And yet you haven’t asked yourself why that is, why is this happening to Pritzker now, when so many other campaigns, some as nearly as large as Pritzker’s organization, haven’t seen anything like this. Why?
Did they think they could shake-down a billionaire?
Were they put up to this in order to damage Pritzker and weaken him as Governor?
Every campaign I’ve ever been on, at least a dozen, has had its share of malcontents and complainers, of all races, creeds and backgrounds. No one ever filed suit before, and not when the campaign was a runaway winner and there were government jobs to be had within grasp.
Why? Why is this the first time campaign staff revolted in such a public way? I keep reading the suit and I still can’t see specific, credible instances of actual harm or racial discrimination.
Why? You believe the allegations on their face. OK. That’s one theory and maybe that’s what this is. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. But I’ve worked on campaigns and I know Pritzker a little bit, and nothing about this suit rings true to me. I’m wrong a lot, about a lot of things, but I still have to wonder, why?
It’s not to defeat him. It might be about money. It might be to weaken him before he even takes office. I find either of those scenarios more likely than that the allegations made in this law suit are in fact true.
I don’t see this as part of whatever pattern you see. I see the Pritzker campaign as the victim of an attempted smear not as the perpetrator of racial or other discrimination.
===I don’t see this as part of whatever pattern you see.===
Gross political negilence… be it their oppo and letting it fester and blow up… to not handing personnel… that 10 paid staffers are so angered and frustrated they file suit… again, letting things fester to a lawsuit.
You have the property tax turn into “scheme to defraud”…
… you have a staff issue become a federal filing based on discrimination.
Maybe both are frivolous, but it’s malpractice, that one, let alone both, got here… then there’s the “we dunno” if there’s no Blago tapes?
===you have a staff issue become a federal filing based on discrimination===
Alleged discrimination Willy. Alleged.
Here’s the story from the “lead plaintiff:”
“Over the past three months, he’s been frustrated that his accomplishments have been overlooked. “I felt silence, I was ignored, and I was unfairly treated” compared to white staffers, he said. “Everyone deserves a work environment free of discrimination and harassment.”
He doesn’t offer an example of unfair treatment, or how white workers were treated differently. He’d been on the job for three months and wanted to be recognized for his accomplishments. He wasn’t recognized, so he sued for racial discrimination but his complaint doesn’t lay the foundation for that charge.
It’s not up to you or me to determine what happened or who’s at fault. That’ll be up to the court. I’ll wait until more facts come out before I convict the campaign of mismanagement though.
===Did you forget the part where the first thing that senior management learned…===
You mean besides the moving from hotel to hotel the “George Kaplan” of the Pritzker Crew?
If you want to say the “first” time they heard, that’s how you want this? That’s not great communications, or handling personnel well the “first” is a lawsuit? No one taking to anybody there?
===Keep hanging your hat on the 10 plaintiffs.===
That’s who filed. Nothing to hang any hat on.
It was 10.
===Why ask for cash while threatening to sue? If they’d really taken these complaints to the highest level and were ignored, why try to get cash? Why not just sue and let the chips fall where they may?===
When 10 people feel that they are not being heard, they may do crazy things.
They appear that believe no one was listening.
If the difficult decision is to let the lawsuit go… how did you get to such a difficult decision?
I keep looking, never seen 10 paid staff sue for discrimination 3 weeks out, possibly torpedoing their own careers.
OW, respectfully, what should the campaign have done to prevent these foolish lawyers from foolishly filing the complaint? How can you reason with people like that who are demanding $7,500,000 within 24 hours as damages for plaintiffs who have worked a little as one month for the campaign? (9 of the 10 started in July or later)
The plaintiff who complained about her accommodations in Peoria, accommodations that several on this blog have said are just fine, she started with the campaign in September. And just one month later she filing a federal lawsuit against the campaign?
Allegations in complaints are typically exaggerated to emphasize the bad actions. Look at what is actually alleged in the complaint. If you had an employee who had been with you for just 3 months - only 1 of the 10 plaintiffs had been with the campaign for longer than 3 months - and they brought the complaints to you in the complaint, what would you have done?
And keep in mind, there are no allegations of 8 of the 10 plaintiffs making their dissatisfaction known to management in the campaign. In fact 1 of them is tweeting out happy tweets the day the complaint is filed.
Still say it’s a generational appeasement. They feel discrimination but it may really be validation.
Look we all want to be praised at work, told how great we do our job, live the same life the boss and the top folks in the administration live but it’s just not the case.
You don’t come out of college and expect to be CEO in 2 weeks.
Someone has to do the grunt work. It’s called grunt work because it stinks, it’s hard, it’s tedious, it’s boring and it’s crappy pay. Pay your dues the reward is much better when you can look back and show your journey of struggle, perseverance, ingenuity, creativity and strength.