More than half of the staff working for long-shot mayoral candidate Dianne Morales have walked out over harassment and unequal pay claims, the nascent union representing the workers claimed Friday.
Fifty-five of the nearly 100 full-time and part-time campaign employees are involved in the strike, which the leaders of the labor efforts said erupted after Morales sacked four staffers leading the organizing charge.
They made the claims as they led more than two dozen self-identified staffers and supporters in a march from Morales’s campaign headquarters in Midtown to nearby Bryant Park, where they rallied and demanded the candidate reverse her decision to lock them out of the building and to rehire the fired staffers.
The extraordinary display came just hours after Morales defended her handling of the campaign crisis in a Thursday night interview on New York 1, describing the staff rebellion as a “beautiful mess” and arguing it showed she had the leadership abilities necessary to be New York’s next mayor.
When asked about those remarks after the rally, Morales’s former deputy campaign manager Nia Evans shot back.
“Thus far, this has been failed leadership,” she said.
Evans was one of three current and former staffers who spoke out against Morales’s handling of the labor push — and complained about what they described as widespread pay disparity and harassment issues on the campaign.
Another one, Nadia Semmar, who helped organize and run the phone banking for the campaign, said she made less than a white male subordinate — at one point saying she made $1,000 less per month, before walking the statement back.
All three women who spoke to the press declined to elaborate on the union’s claims of widespread sexual harassment and racial discrimination on the campaign, despite repeated inquiries from reporters there.
However, they did say that several of the issues were initially raised nearly a month ago and said that Morales’ response was unsatisfactory.
“Ultimately, the buck stops with Dianne,” Evans said. “Dianne is the leader of this campaign, ultimately she has responsibility over how staff were being treated, over how staff were being paid.”
The protest was the latest event in the Morales’ campaign’s week-long meltdown, which also saw the exit of campaign manager Whitney Hu and senior staffers Ramses Duke and Amanda Van Kesell.
Even Friday, it remained frustratingly unclear what events precipitated the extraordinary rupture between Morales and her staff, which has unfolded with less than four weeks to go until the June 22 primary.
It’s the second scandal this month to hit the Morales campaign, which has long struggled in the polls but seen significant fundraising success thanks to a dedicated core of liberal and left-wing activists and supporters making small dollar contributions.
Morales acknowledged nearly two weeks ago that she paid a $300 bribe to a corrupt city inspector to fix a $12,000 water bill while working as a contractor at the Department of Education — and then lied about to inspectors.
The primary will be the first citywide election to use the Big Apple’s new ranked-choice voting system.
That means New Yorkers will be able to select their preference of up to five candidates running for mayor and other positions in city government — and the ballots will be tallied by first, second, third, fourth and fifth choice, eliminating the need for runoff elections.
In a statement late Friday, a spokeswoman for the campaign confirmed a mass walkout, but said a slightly smaller number of staffers — 40 — were involved.
“Dianne has made it crystal clear that she supports organizing efforts,” the spokeswoman added.