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Pritzker field organizers alleging racism: ‘This is not about politics’

Video by Ashlee Rezin

A group of employees alleging racism in Democrat J.B. Pritzker’s campaign offices strongly denied Monday any political motivation for their federal lawsuit — with one former worker saying she’d personally spoke to the candidate about discrimination.

“He promised me to address it, and I was laid off,” said Kayla Hogan, a former field organizer for the campaign.

Eight of the 10 current and former employees appeared with their lawyers Monday at an office on the South Side, saying they felt their side of the story hadn’t been accurately portrayed in news reports about the suit, filed last week.

“Since then, our clients have been maligned as extortionists and stooges, who only filed this suit for political purposes,” said Jeanette Samuels, one of the attorneys representing the group. “This is not about politics. Our clients’ claims are above politics.”

Attorney Shay Allen discusses the lawsuit against the gubernatorial campaign for Democrat J.B. Pritzker during a press conference, Monday morning, Oct. 22, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
Attorney Shay Allen discusses the lawsuit against the gubernatorial campaign for Democrat J.B. Pritzker during a press conference, Monday morning, Oct. 22, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The campaign workers repeatedly refused to discuss specific allegations Monday, saying those would come out in court.

One worker, Maxwell Little, said he’d filed complaints about the way he’d been treated while working for the campaign, but to no avail.

“We were ignored, silenced, intimidated and forced to endure their abuse of power,” Little said.

Gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker and running mate Juliana Stratton speak during a press conference outside the Thompson Center, Thursday morning, Oct. 18, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
Gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker and running mate Juliana Stratton speak during a press conference outside the Thompson Center, Thursday morning, Oct. 18, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

In the suit, the plaintiffs — all field organizers — allege that while the campaign has hired African-American and Latino workers, “the vast majority are herded into race-specific positions where they are expected to interact with the public, offered no meaningful chance for advancement, and receive less favorable treatment than their white counterparts who engage with, as the campaign sees it, a more desirable constituency.”


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On Monday, as it did last week, the Pritzker campaign said the suit has no merit.

“The fact is, there is no basis for the accusations being made,” said campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen. “Everything about the way this has been handled, from the threat to sue unless a $7.5 million dollar payment was made to the fact that their lawyer seems far more interested in conducting interviews and holding press conferences than even serving necessary papers that would allow the case to be dismissed, tell you all you need to know. J.B. and Juliana are proud of the diverse and inclusive campaign they are running.”

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