Campaign stiffs campaign workers, won't respond. Solutions?
October 5, 2009 4:39 PM Subscribe
Local political campaign reports a large surplus four days after stiffing its workers (I and dozens of other campaign workers are owed back pay, several of us in the $300+ range). Solutions?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total)
This was an unsuccessful bid for a NY City Council seat. (I'm not directly naming the candidate or any individuals in this post, just as a courtesy -- trying not to saturate people's google results with this because A) I don't know yet what happened and B) the candidate has done great things for the community and I still really believe in his achievements. But there's an article at nypost.com and several of the campaign workers are blogging about it, so it's not exactly a secret).
The campaign hired all its workers at $15/hr. On Election Day (the 15th of September), we were told to come pick up our checks on the 18th of Sep., with no indication that anything would be wrong with them (and throughout the entire campaign they were still actively asking us to bring new people, friends and relatives, to come work at $15/hr).
At 9pm on the 17th, we got a group email saying the campaign would only pay us $10/hr and we should not come in on the 18th; instead, the $10/hr checks were mailed. According to the article linked above, the campaign reported a significant surplus four days after sending out our partial-payment checks on the 18th.
The sole public statement from the campaign, given at the reporter's request for that article, was "Everyone has been paid or their check has been sent to them in the mail." That is, needless to say, an extremely disingenuous (and bad-faith) non-response.
Several campaign workers got together and wrote a formal group email to the campaign's email address asking for a resolution (there was no answer, and now that address is apparently no longer accepting emails), and started a blog with the basic facts, then filed a formal complaint with the Campaign Finance Board after it was clear that the campaign wouldn't respond (that complaint is now pending). Many workers have attempted to contact the campaign managers (using known-good phone numbers and email addresses), receiving no responses whatsoever. Only the Field Coordinator has been responsive, but she has no relation to the campaign's finances.
One thing I have not done is cash the partial-payment check they mailed me on the 18th, on the suspicion that cashing it could be seen as implicitly accepting it as correct payment. (Please share opinions re. whether that's a wrong suspicion, because I seriously need that money.) For me, and for at least a dozen other people who also started towards the beginning of the campaign, these partial checks sent on the 18th were the second or third of the weekly checks we received. Our earlier first checks were all correct, $15/hr, agreeing with our timesheets. I did cash my correct earlier check, as I think all of us did.
My own financial position means the money I'm still owed (several hundred dollars) is clearly worth time and effort in material terms, not just on principle. Are there steps to be taken while we wait for the Campaign Finance Board to review the complaint? And more importantly: would even the best-case result of that review produce money for us, or would it just produce something like censure or fees for the campaign?