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?

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?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total)
 
Lawyer up! Press release up! Press conference up! Borough council up! Winning ticket up!
posted by parmanparman at 4:51 PM on October 5, 2009


I don't know what NY labor law says but in FLA you can get away with paying a released employee minimum wage on their last check. Dirty but legal.
posted by patnok at 5:07 PM on October 5, 2009


Get a lawyer.

Which lawyer?

One in your party that you can trust, dude.
posted by By The Grace of God at 5:20 PM on October 5, 2009


I know you complained to the Campaign Finance Board, but is there any sort of employment board you could/should also be complaining to?
posted by ishotjr at 5:54 PM on October 5, 2009


You need a lawyer, but fwiw I believe that you can cash a check as a partial payment without that constituting an acceptance of the underpayment.

In California there are very strict laws about employer-employee relationships, and a board to enforce them, so there may be the same in your state.

Of course you can always wait until the next City Council election and picket the candidate's events. You'll get paid pretty quick then.
posted by musofire at 6:13 PM on October 5, 2009


Grrrrrrr.

Democrats stiffing campaign workers--this makes halcyon_daze very, very, very angry.

You budget, you pay what you can, and if you can't pay what you thought, then you call everybody together and explain the situation beforehand. 9 times out of 10, people will do the job anyway, because they believe in the candidate.

This?

This amateur-hour crap breaks all the rules.

Hammer them, and hammer them hard. Keep the pressure up.

Right now they are thinking they can gut it out. They think you will give up, they think this will pass. They think that eventually some money will be better than nothing. You should do everything you can to dissuade them of that opinion.

The Post article mentions an office--picket that office. The Post article mentions that your candidate is a Democrat--contact the state Democratic Party and raise all kinds of hell about Democrats mistreating workers.

If this guy cares about his future in politics, you'll get your money.
posted by halcyon_daze at 8:23 PM on October 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Are you referring to this Campaign Finance Board? They sound pretty useless:

SI Council Candidate Owes Thousands In Wages, Says Former Aide


Here in California, I'd contact the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. From what I hear, they're pretty aggressive in these sorts of cases. Maybe NY has something similar?
posted by ryanrs at 2:44 AM on October 6, 2009


I don't watch local news these days, but if channel 2,4,5,7,9 or 11 has one of those consumer advocates (Arnold Diaz Shame on You?) contact that person and discuss your plight. Also, when the campaign announced a surplus, what time period did it entail. Often those reports are laggard reports. Also make sure that not only is the candidate mentioned on the blog, but so is the finance chief and anyone else associated with this mess. If any of these bums is working on the fall campaign for another candidate, write a letter to that candidate asking for assistance. Mention that to the NY Post if it is true. Maybe putting pressure on their next employer will help.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:59 AM on October 6, 2009


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