With less than a month to go before the Democratic primary that likely will decide the next New York City mayor, candidate Dianne Morales is facing controversy from within her own campaign.
Morales, arguably the most left-leaning candidate in the field, is a supporter of the ‘Defund the Police’ movement.
On her campaign website, she pledges a $3 billion reallocation of the NYPD’s budget toward safety measures that ‘address crises with dignity and empower communities to create solutions that decrease the likelihood of NYPD intervention.’
But on Thursday morning, her policy ideas were overshadowed by a group called Mayorales Union. It pledged to unionize workers on Morales’ campaign staff.
The unionization call appeared to come after numerous allegations of problems within the campaign.
Dianne Morales is facing problems in her NYC mayoral campaign with less than a month left
A group of campaign staff members have stated that they plan to create a staff union
The group released a statement on behalf of campaign staff, saying, ‘As staff of Dianne Morales’s 2021 mayoral campaign, we have thrown our hearts into a mission-driven organization built on ideals of dignity, care, and solidarity. We come to you with our road to unionization.’
The statement discusses how campaign staff members were drawn to Morales’ ideas ‘to universally empower communities to collectively decide for themselves what dignity, care, and solidarity mean in practice.’
But it goes on to detail the pressure that comes with political campaigns and makes strong allegations.
‘Many staff have experienced racial aggressions, sexual harassment, exploitation, and manipulation — grave violations that contradict the very equity our campaign promotes,’ the statement reads.
It’s not clear who specifically the group is blaming. No allegations have been made against Morales herself.
Morales released this statement on Wednesday, announcing the exit of three staff members
‘This pattern of marginalization was particularly pronounced in the field, where organizers, particularly Black and brown organizers, were tasked with promoting Dianne Morales but deprived of the resources and support needed to do so.
‘Furthermore, the boundary between volunteer and employee was often disrespected particularly with young organizers.’
Mayorales said that Morales’ ‘zero-tolerance stance against sexual abuse and harassment’ was not formalized.
The group states that black women who came forward with problems were ignored and cited dysfunction within the campaign.
Morales, who is arguably the most left-leaning candidate left in the field, is a supporter of the ‘Defund the Police’ movement
On her campaign website, she pledges a $3 billion reallocation of the NYPD’s budget towards safety measures that ‘address crises with dignity and empower communities to create solutions that decrease the likelihood of NYPD intervention’
Earlier this week, the staff went on to hold an emergency meeting and met with Morales about the issues on the campaign.
‘We were heartened by her response,’ the statement says of Morales. ‘She listened patiently to a conference room full of individuals who have pinned their hopes on her campaign, giving us room to share emotions that were intense and complicated.’
Gothamist reports that one of the staff members who left the campaign was campaign manager Whitney Hu. She later announced the decision to leave as one of her ‘own accord.’ The New York Post also identified senior staffers Ramses Duke and Amanda Van Kesell as no longer with the campaign.
But it’s not immediately clear if these are the changes the statement was referencing.
It also stated that Morales voluntarily supports the union and that it has the backing of a majority of the staff.
After DailyMail.com reached out to the Morales campaign for comment, she released this statement, confirming sexual harassment claims were made against two staff members:
‘I am grateful my staff bravely came forward to discuss allegations related to racially based biases and sexual harassment claims at the hands of two staff members and we decided to make the swift decision to remove those staff. Although staff changes are common on campaigns, it is never easy when it happens. Today, we made further adjustments to our team which was difficult but necessary.’
Her statement was released on Thursday, implying that further changes were made after the staffing changes earlier in the week.
Morales went on to confirm her support for the union, calling New York City a ‘union town.’
‘In the same pre-scheduled staff meeting on Monday, my staff informed me they wanted to unionize. I immediately told them they had my support. As the first and only Afro-Latina to run for Mayor of NYC, a union town, having my campaign staff push for this much needed transformation makes me proud. While some campaigns would shy away from this change, I embrace it.
According to the statement from the Mayorales Union, Morales supports unionization
Some of Morales’ other campaign stances include to decriminalize drug use and sex work, as well as to eliminate bail
‘When I announced, I said I wanted to run a transformational campaign and that is exactly what we are co-creating,’ Morales continued. ‘While these conversations have been difficult, they have challenged not just me, but every campaign currently in progress to reconsider unionizing as a campaign standard moving forward. It is truly what my campaign is about and I applaud my team for bringing forward the union.’
‘Our campaign is like our City, full of resilient change makers, but it is also imperfect and in need of honest dialogue. By making these changes, it is my hope and responsibility to guide our team through the last stretch of this race in a way that espouses our values of honesty, transparency and loving disruption,’ she concluded.
The call for unionization came within 24 hours of Morales announcing the departure of three staff members, later reported to be Hu, Van Kessell, and Duke.
‘Traditional political spaces have long disenfranchised Black and Brown people on campaigns,’ Morales wrote in a statement on Wednesday morning.
‘Our campaign works to intentionally center the voices of those who are excluded from politics and we acknowledge that mistakes have been made in our attempts to do this.
Polls show Morales lagging behind the field, with a new PIX11 News/Emerson College poll putting her in sixth place with 7 percent of the vote
Morales went on to detail the same meeting the campaign staff referenced in its own statement.
‘That process began last night when I sat with campaign staff — many of whom I consider family — for hours to listen to concerns on a myriad of issues. During this meeting, I accepted accountability in my role as the head of this campaign that allowed for this harm to occur.
Morales did not name the staffers at the center of the abuse and harassment claims in her most recent statement.
Prior to any exits, a social media post suggested white staffers were making more money than POC staffers.
A person connected to the campaign told Gothamist that it had become a ‘toxic environment’ and that problems began when the team expanded in recent weeks.
Hu reportedly raised concerns to Morales on Monday and threatened to quit if changes weren’t made to the field operations team.
POLITICO reports that Morales did not fire the staff in question, leading to Hu’s resignation.
On her way out, Hu ultimately urged staff to unionize due to perceived problems with wages, workplace treatment and a lack of health care.
A campaign spokesperson told the Post, ‘Whitney Hu resigned amid conversations regarding her own treatment of staff.’
One campaign staffer recently resigned because it ‘no longer aligns’ with her values
Former campaign manager Whitney Hu released a statement about her own resignation
She added, ‘It was a mutual understanding that Rames Duke and Amanda Van Kessel, both senior members of the field team, could no longer be on the campaign.’
Hu later took to social media to release a statement of her own, where she said she would not ‘continue on the campaign until harmful actors were removed.’
She also said she was ‘proud of the team, especially the black women, who are holding this movement accountable.’
Morales is a supporter of the ‘Defund the Police’ movement, which has been facing obstacles lately, with many cities beginning to reverse proposed budget cuts and even increase funding to police departments.
Out of the nation’s 20 largest police departments, city leaders have already submitted next year’s budget proposals for 12, and nine of those request funding increases ranging from 1 to 6 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In New York, elected leaders have seen shootings soar and seemingly random attacks on strangers regularly make headlines.
So far, shooting incidents in the city are up 82 percent from last year, and murders are up 22 percent from last year and 45 percent from 2019 levels.
In total in 2021, there have been 32,695 major crimes reported. There have been nearly 400 more major crimes reported this week in New York than there were in the same week last year – a 30 percent surge.
‘We have a major crime problem in New York City,’ Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference on Wednesday.
‘New Yorkers don’t feel safe and they don’t feel safe because the crime rate is up. It’s not that they are being neurotic or overly sensitive – they are right,’ Cuomo said.
In a swipe at his political nemesis, de Blasio, the governor said defunding the police was not the correct solution.
‘Until you restore the trust and make the reforms necessary, we’re going to have this problem — defund the police is not the answer. It basically means abolish the police,’ he said.
Polls show Morales lagging behind the field, with a new PIX11 News/Emerson College poll putting her in sixth place with 7 percent of the vote.
Kathryn Garcia ranks first in the poll at 21 percent, followed by Eric Adams at 20 percent and Andrew Yang polling at 16 percent.
If Morales pulls out a victory in the June 22 primary, she would be on her way to becoming the first black female mayor of New York City.