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Rev. Al Sharpton hosted a Mayors’ Forum in Harlem Tuesday evening to prepare for his expected support in the Democratic mayoral election. All of the top candidates were in attendance, except for one – Dianne Morales, who cited a “family emergency”.
In reality, she was meeting with her staff when her basic progressive campaign began to implode.
By Thursday, two senior campaign workers had left, two more workers had been laid off, a union campaign had fueled and four workers involved in union work had been laid off, resulting in a worker strike.
The internal dispute is a significant distraction or worse for Ms. Morales, 53, who, as a left-wing candidate in the field, has drawn a large number of small donors and an enthusiastic group of supporters. But the uproar over union efforts and complaints about a toxic workplace suggested that their campaign fell far short of progressive values.
There is no evidence that Ms. Morales will be eliminated from the race. But on Thursday night, Farudh Emiel Majid, a senior organizer of the candidate, urged them to suspend their campaign, said it created “a hostile work environment towards Black and Brown employees.”
More than five hours at Tuesday night’s meeting – after the first resignation of Ms. Morales’ campaign manager Whitney Hu – the candidate listened to the employees Share complaints about harassment, racial abuse and exploitation and label their work environment as toxic. The staff told her that they felt isolated; The work felt repetitive and unstructured.
The staff present called the meeting “open” and “raw” and said Ms. Morales had spoken extensively about the challenges of her unique candidacy: she is an Afro-Latin candidate, first left of her peers, and your campaign is heavily dependent on public funds.
She also spoke about the challenges of her team’s recent explosive growth – from half a dozen to about 80 in just a few months. Ms. Morales openly accepted her role in generating any disputes that may have arisen.
It wasn’t enough. Ifeoma Ike, a senior adviser, resigned early Thursday, leaving the campaign in even deeper chaos, less than a month before the June 22nd Democratic primary.
Ms. Hu and Ms. Ike’s departures followed concerns about two other employees who were accused of ill-treatment: one whom the employees said had used a previous professional relationship with Ms. Morales to try to improperly impose authority, and another who was accused of making female employees uncomfortable, such as three employees who refused to be named for fear of retaliation.
Krysten Copeland, a campaign spokeswoman, said Thursday that two campaign workers, Ramses Dukes and Amanda van Kessel, had been fired. She said they were the employees who were accused of wrongdoing. Ms. van Kessel had previously worked with Ms. Morales in the social services of Phipps Houses, a residential construction group. Mr Dukes was unavailable for comments and Mrs van Kessel did not respond to requests for comments.
In her statement, Ms. Morales addressed the themes of her campaign.
“Our campaign aims to center the voices of those who are excluded from politics,” the statement reads, “and we recognize that mistakes have been made in our attempts to do so.”
In response to recent allegations of misconduct, employees had a union effort that they said they were meant to correct what many viewed as a toxic work environment and to capture the progressive principles advocated in Ms. Morales’ campaign – but not, as they said, in her workplace. According to the union, the union has a majority support and Ms. Morales has voluntarily recognized this.
But on Thursday, four workers involved in the union effort were sacked minutes before a scheduled meeting to discuss the collective’s demands.
Employees began a work stoppage late Thursday.
“It is deeply disappointing that a candidate who claims to support trade unions has refused to take part in this conversation,” said the workers who founded the union, in a statement.
Ms. Copeland said the candidate was unaware that the dismissed workers were involved in union formation. She did not immediately explain why the four were fired.
Ms. Morales said Thursday night on NY1 that the union initiative was “a beautiful and messy thing” adding, “I think it’s a reflection of a very transformative campaign we organized this way, and I got that from from the moment it was brought to me, fully supported. “
After Ms. Hu and Ms. Ike resigned, union organization began in earnest.
“I officially resigned from the Morales campaign on Tuesday after demanding that I no longer be able to continue the campaign until harmful actors were removed,” it said an explanation from Ms. Hu. “I remain in solidarity with the team.”
Early Thursday morning, Mrs. Ike said on Twitter: “I’m officially withdrawing from the campaign because it no longer matches my values.”
According to several employees, tensions increased in an already tense campaign in the past few weeks after some employees reached out to Ms. Hu with recruitment complaints, including about those she accused of abuse.
Ms. Hu and Ms. Ike were the senior staff members in the group who passed these concerns on to Ms. Morales, and the two said they would quit if the candidate failed to adequately address the complaints, according to several staff members familiar with the exchange .
But Mrs. Morales did not react as expected. The employee accused of abuse of power was demoted twice and fired on Sunday.
A team building consultancy was brought in and introduced an externally drawn up code of conduct that employees should adhere to. A departure for a team that took pride in open communication and collaboration.
Staff met Monday to discuss the growing concern, but Ms. Morales was invited but did not attend.
On Tuesday, Ms. Morales encouraged the campaign staff to practice “self-care.” The election campaign headquarters were closed on Wednesday. Some returned to the office to find that the access code had been changed and they were no longer allowed to enter. A Wednesday New Yorker press event for Racially Just Public Schools was canceled without warning.
“It’s not looking good to be honest,” said Gina White, a Harlem resident, who came to the school event hoping to hear the candidate speak. “If she wasn’t here, she should at least have sent someone from her campaign team to represent and make a statement.”
In a statement released Thursday, Ms. Morales reiterated the issues facing her campaign, saying she acted quickly when allegations of wrongdoing were raised.
“Through these changes, it is my hope and responsibility to lead our team through the final leg of this race in a way that represents our values of honesty, transparency, and loving disruption,” she wrote.