Staffers of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign allege ‘sexual violence and harassment’
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The #MeToo movement is catching up with staffers on Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.
Two dozen ex-Sanders staffers sent a letter Sunday seeking a meeting with the former candidate — who might run again in 2020 — to “discuss the issue of sexual violence and harassment” in the Vermont senator’s 2016 run.
“We — the people who worked on Bernie 2016 — know that much of the success of our campaign was due to the intense commitment, passion and sacrifice of women, people of color and LGBT staffers,” says the letter, acquired by Politico.
“In recent weeks there has been an ongoing conversation on social media, in texts, and in person, about the untenable and dangerous dynamic that developed during our campaign.”
The letter did not make any specific allegations of misconduct. But one unidentified organizer told Politico that the letter “is just a start.”
“We are addressing what happened on the Bernie campaign but as people that work in this space we see that all campaigns are extremely dangerous to women and marginalized people and we are attempting to fix that,” the staffer said.
Among the written requests were “a productive statement on harassment in the campaign environment,” “a follow-up plan for implementing sexual harassment policies and procedures” and “a commitment to hiring diverse leadership to pre-empt the possibility of replicating the predatory culture from the first presidential campaign.”
The candidate himself, campaign manager Jeff Weaver; Sanders‘ chief of staff, Caryn Compton, deputy chief of staff Ari Rabin-Havt, Shannon Jackson, the campaign manager for Sanders’ 2018 re-election effort, and top communications official Arianna Jones were all asked to attend the meeting.
In a response, the senator’s campaign committee, Friends of Bernie Sanders, thanked the writers “for their willingness to engage in this incredibly important discussion.”
The committee acknowledged “a number of HR actions taken” during the 2016 run, with consequences ranging from “employee counseling to immediate termination.”
During Sanders’ 2018 re-election campaign in Vermont, his staff employed “more robust policies and processes regarding discrimination and harassment,” said the response letter, which was also obtained by Politico.
“Harassment of any kind is intolerable. Hearing the experiences and thoughts of individuals who worked on Bernie’s 2016 campaign is a vital part of our commitment to work within our progressive community to improve the lives of all people,” the response letter says.
Joey Jordan Salsbury, the president of American University Students for Bernie in 2015, previously alleged harassment by an unnamed intern during the campaign.
Salsbury claimed that the intern, another college student and her point of contact in the campaign, made unwanted advances toward her, but she said she felt that she had nowhere to report.
It was “a culture that didn’t discuss office policies with volunteers or make it clear that harassment wasn’t tolerated,” she told the Huffington Post last year.
Arturo Carmona, the failed California Congressional candidate and former deputy political director in the Sanders campaign, was also accused of sexism and mistreatment, as well as allegations that he “covered up” an accusation of sexual harassment.
Sanders — who ended his 2016 presidential run when he endorsed Hillary Clinton shortly before the Democratic convention — has not announced his plans for 2020, though some of his backers have hinted at the possibility of another presidential run.