Progressives tend to be terrible people to work for. There are a legion of horror stories about life working for Bernie Sanders, Ralph Nader or Michael Moore.
He’s “a prick” and “an asshole” to his staff, known as “a screamer and a table-banger.”
For these reasons, Jaffe said the word some people used to describe Sanders’ attitude toward his employees was “abusive.”
Here's how Ralph Nader treated his people.
Despite the millions of dollars he commands, he historically paid his professional staff less than minimum wage. Nader, who told Business Week during the last campaign that he offers staff “unlimited sick leave,” ordered staffer George Riley to take a two-week leave of absence to work on a political campaign, refusing him to pay for the time. When I worked for Ralph Nader in 1980-81, he paid us $8,000 a year, hardly enough to get by on even then. We could scarcely afford the time to spend money, though, because Nader expected staff to work around the clock.
Staff turned over rapidly. Few people could stand the hours, pay and abuse for more than a year or two.
But, as the staff of Mother Jones had discovered, Moore wasn’t the ideal boss. Little by little, he began to alienate people. He disliked sharing credit with his writers. He would often come in late. He didn’t yell at people: if someone said something he didn’t like, he wouldn’t argue; he would simply not invite that person to the next meeting, or the person would be fired.
“He wanted to let us know that this would hurt us if it continued,” Zicklin says. “We were scared out of our minds. It was like a theme from ‘Roger & Me.’ ”
one senior staffer regularly responded to Moore's abuse by presenting the boss with a big box of doughnuts. He assured co-workers he was not trying to placate Moore. Rather, he figured Mike's intemperate scarfing would hasten the fat man's death.
So, unsurprisingly, working for David Brock at Media Matters isn't much fun.
Employees were asked to stay late or work on the weekends specifically to cover Clinton, which many felt came at the expense of other stories and the organization’s mission. Nearly every former staffer we spoke to felt that researchers, in particular, were underpaid and overworked, and that these problems often surfaced when they were forced to work on stories they felt were dubious. As one former staffer described it, “They were paying me $35,000 a year to watch Fox all the time and to do rotating shifts where I’d have to change from a day shift to a night shift every two weeks. It was just a miserable job.”
Media Matters also had one standard for the Clintons, and a different one for everybody else.
But there's the David Brock factor.
David Brock was smoking a cigarette on the roof of his Washington, D.C. office one day in the late fall of 2010 when his assistant and two bodyguards suddenly appeared and whisked him and his colleague Eric Burns down the stairs.
Brock, the head of the liberal nonprofit Media Matters for America, had told friends and co-workers that he feared he was in imminent danger from right-wing assassins and needed a security team to keep him safe.
The threat he faced while smoking on his roof? “Snipers,” a former co-worker recalled.
“He had more security than a Third World dictator,” one employee said, explaining that Brock’s bodyguards would rarely leave his side, even accompanying him to his home in an affluent Washington neighborhood each night where they “stood post” to protect him. “What movement leader has a detail?” asked someone who saw it.
Extensive interviews with a number of Brock’s current and former colleagues at Media Matters, as well as with leaders from across the spectrum of Democratic politics, reveal an organization roiled by its leader’s volatile and erratic behavior and struggles with mental illness, and an office where Brock’s executive assistant carried a handgun to public events in order to defend his boss from unseen threats.
Progressive workplaces. They're awesome.