CHICAGO (CBS) — Less than three weeks before the November election, several current and former campaign workers have filed a federal lawsuit against Democratic candidate J.B. Pritzker, calling his campaign a “cesspool of racial discrimination and harassment.”
The Pritzker campaign denied the allegations, claiming the workers who filed the lawsuit demanded $7.5 million, threatening to sue and go to the press.
The lawsuit filed in federal court on Tuesday claims the campaign “herded” African-American and Latino campaign workers into minority neighborhoods on the South Side and West Side, and often forced them to work in unsafe locations.
A group of ten campaign workers who filed the suit also claim they were not offered meaningful opportunities for advancement given to white campaign workers.
“JB Pritzker for Governor has a serious race problem. Contrary to the candidate’s many public avowals, rather than working to meaningfully address discrimination, racism is perpetuated, condoned, and ratified by the Campaign,” the lawsuit alleges. “The JB Prtizker for Governor campaign has been cesspool of racial discrimination and harassment.”
According to the lawsuit, one of Pritzker’s campaign offices was located next door to a store that was robbed twice in a week, and where “a young woman was raped outside their back door; and a gunfight took place right outside their office,” all in broad daylight.
One campaign staffer, identified in the lawsuit as Kasmine Calhoun, claims she was hired as the only black organizer in Peoria, in order to meet a “Black Female organizer quota.” She also claims she was told she would stay with a family who was friendly to the campaign, but they wouldn’t let her in when they found out she was black.
Calhoun claimed the campaign later put her up in a hotel “in an unsafe part of town,” and staffers refused to move her to a safer location.
The Pritzker campaign called the allegations in the lawsuit “baseless” and “offensive,” and claimed the staffers who filed the lawsuit had delivered a letter “asking for $7.5 million dollars in 24 hours or they threatened legal action and to go to press.”
“We stand by our staff and that’s why we are not afraid to litigate this to the fullest extent of the law. I couldn’t be prouder to be on the ticket with JB and of the statewide, grassroots campaign we’ve built,” Pritzker’s running mate, Julianna Stratton, said in a statement.