Ex-staffers dub failed mayoral hopeful Amara Enyia’s handling of pay dispute ‘beyond insulting’
On Tuesday, Enyia issued a statement calling the allegations “unsettling” and suggesting the former staffers shared responsibility for the lack of pay.
Former campaign workers of unsuccessful mayoral candidate Amara Enyia pushed back Wednesday at her attempt to blame them for her failure to pay them, dubbing her treatment of her staff “beyond insulting.”
“To use Amara’s words, it’s ‘unsettling’ how someone who recently aspired to be mayor of Chicago is willing to hide behind the staffers her campaign failed as to why she rejected an opportunity to ensure they would be compensated,” said Christopher Harlan, a representative for the over two dozen former Enyia campaign employees seeking back payment.
The former campaign workers had filed a class-action wage-theft grievance with the state Department of Labor over $56,825 that Enyia’s campaign committee, Friends of Amara Enyia, owed them in back wages, overtime and reimbursements.
On Tuesday, Enyia issued a statement calling the allegations “unsettling” and suggesting the former staffers shared responsibility for the lack of pay. She said they all collectively decided that she shouldn’t endorse a mayoral candidate in the April runoff, calling it a “voluntary team decision” she said “was key because it meant the team knew fundraising post-campaign would be a challenge, even as it allowed us to independently build on our campaign’s platform and message.”
Essentially, she argued if they had agreed to endorse one of the remaining candidates, that candidate would then help raise money to pay their salaries.
Harlan, who is part of the “Amara 24” group — the unpaid workers seeking back wages and overtime — said they had nothing to do with the decision not to back a mayoral candidate in the run-off between Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle. He characterized the decision as a complete surprise to her “team.”
“Dr. Enyia’s press conference to endorse no one collectively blindsided the staff,” Harlan said in a statement. “Though Dr. Enyia and Mr. [Joshua] Gray, [her campaign manager], assured us that independence would provide the greatest fundraising lane to absolve her debts, the decision to endorse neither Lightfoot nor Preckwinkle rests solely with Dr. Enyia and not with the collective decision of any staff.”
Responding to the grievance on Tuesday, Enyia said she has made partial payments to the staffers “as a show of good faith.” Emails obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, show 24 employees received $200 and four others received $300 in May.
That’s the last payment many saw, Harlan said. All the people who filed a grievance weren’t even on the list to receive some of the available funds, Harlan said, calling it “beyond insulting.”
On Wednesday, Enyia insisted she did meet with members of her staff after the Feb. 26 election to have a “frank conversation about finances.”
She called the pay dispute a “challenging situation” that she’s working hard to rectify since she became aware of the debts at the end of her campaign.
“I’m committed to doing everything I can to raise the money,” Enyia said. “I have an open door, phone, email — I’m willing to talk this through to solve this issue because that’s what’s going to get it done. We have to be open and honest with each other, we have to operate in good faith.”