Although former staffers to Michael Bloomberg’s last-minute presidential bid were shocked last month when they discovered they were being fired, the Bloomberg campaign proudly offered them a parting gift as a “token of our appreciation.”
“We sincerely appreciate your commitment and dedication over the past few months!” said a campaign email to fired staffers, as The New York Times previously reported. “As a token of our appreciation, we are offering you the opportunity to keep your laptop and iPhone.”
While the Bloomberg campaign told the staffers at the time that they would be taxed for the laptops and iPhones per federal law, ex-staffers reportedly weren’t expecting for the hundreds of dollars in taxes to be deducted from their final paycheck, and in the middle of a public health crisis.
“We were never told our last checks would be taxed (for me, I lost $800+!) before they did it,” an ex-staffer told Politico. “If they told us that, people would have been a little more stringent about opting out of taking them.”
Sally Abrahamson, an attorney representing ex-staffers in a lawsuit against Bloomberg, told NBC News that the law firm she represents has begun investigating the tax deductions.
“It doesn’t sound right. How can workers be expected to pay taxes on something they didn’t want?” Abrahamson told the news agency “The law certainly doesn’t allow an employer to pay wages with anything but money.”
Other former staffers told the news agency their paychecks were deducted more than $400. When asked for comment, a spokesperson for the now-defunct Bloomberg campaign offered an old statement, from around the time the staffers were originally fired.
“This campaign paid its staff wages and benefits that were much more generous than any other campaign this year,” the spokesperson told the news agency. “Staff worked 39 days on average, but they were also given several weeks of severance and healthcare through March, something no other campaign did this year.”
The Bloomberg campaign managed to amass an army of staffers in such a short time, in part, because of the impression of job security and the offer of lucrative benefits packages.
“Bloomberg is paying state press secretaries $10,000 a month, compared to the average going rate of $4,500 for other candidates and state political directors are making $12,000 a month, more than some senior campaign advisers earn, sources said,” the New York Post reported in January.
But after the staffers were fired, some of the members of Bloomberg’s former campaign army publicly turned on him.
“I’m so sorry I worked for this guy. I thought he was totally different,” said former field organizer Jane Conrad, who told The New York Times she was recruited to the campaign from her old job. “He took me out of my job for his own gain.”
“He has left us with no health insurance during this pandemic,” a former staffer told Politico. “I have a family and do not know what we will do at the end of the month.”
Amol Jethwani, another former staffer, remarked on Twitter that he was “not surprised that a billionaire is cheating scum,” reports the news agency.