For a moment, Dianne Morales appeared to be the left’s best candidate to stop the more moderate front-runners in the New York City Democratic primary, businessman Andrew Yang and ex-cop Eric Adams. Though she was always a long-range shot and consistently polled in the single digits, Morales gained prominence among the city’s fragmented left after allegations of sexual harassment and abuse turned the campaign of city auditor Scott Stringer on its head, hoping for progressive support to consolidate. Morales, a former nonprofit executive, positioned herself in the crowded field as a left-wing candidate and began raising impressive donations, qualifying for millions of dollars in matching funds for the first time in March.
But less than four weeks before election day, the Morales campaign collapsed, and it did so in appalling public fashion. On May 28, about 40 of their employees gathered in Bryant Park, Manhattan to protest the working conditions in the office of the candidate they had fought for for months, wearing signs that read “Union Busting Is Disgusting” and “WTF Dianne ?! “. The organization, according to the staff, is full of sexual harassment and abuse and promotes a “toxic environment” for young black and brown workers. So they quit the job, called a strike, and gathered in a park before marching to campaign headquarters to formulate their demands.
At this point, Morales’ campaign was facing a leadership vacuum. Earlier this week, two senior workers were fired after being charged with harassment and toxic behavior in the workplace. Another executive handed in a resignation letter saying that the campaign “is no longer in line with their values”. Then Morales fired four employees involved in a trade union organization at the last minute. The employees saw this as retaliation – and as the last straw. At the end of the day, individual aides had begun asking their candidate to end her candidacy for mayor’s office.
Farudh Emiel Majid, the senior campaign organizer in the Queens borough, released a statement calling on Morales to resign, saying it had created “a hostile work environment to Black and Brown employees.” More than four dozen employees shared statements of demands, letters detailing negotiations with the candidate, and even a custom gradient purple and orange background that supporters could use to mark their own anti-union anti-Morales through a Twitter account called Mayorales Union create profile picture.
As the drama progressed, Morales struggled to explain why she’d fired the four union leaders and why their team had abandoned them. “It’s a beautiful and chaotic thing,” she said Spectrum News NY1. In the telephone interview with The nation, Morales said the employees were unwilling to negotiate and that they had found a way to keep those involved in the work stoppage paying until their contracts ended. “I don’t know how much more worker-friendly you can be,” she said.
Her followers didn’t see it that way and many quickly jumped off. Groups like the New York Progressive Action Network and the Jewish Vote withdrew their endorsements and urged voters to place Maya Wiley, a civil rights attorney who served as an advisor to Mayor Bill de Blasio, in first place. The Working Families Party, a major progressive force in the state, shuffled their approval for a second time in the race, ending their support for Morales and placing Wiley in first place weeks after the Stringer allegations led the party to co-determine the two women . A number of notable progressives, including New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also switched to Wiley despite being ideologically closer to Morales. At least one senior Morales adviser went to work on a rival campaign. Then, three days before the early voting began, Morales laid off more than 40 employees, about half of their team.