The worst job in the world is working for an advocate for the working class. If you doubt that, ask the servant whom Karl Marx impregnated and then made his son go through the servants’ entrance.
But there’s plenty of more contemporary examples that I’ve collected over the years from passionate warriors for the working class like Ralph Nader, Michael Moore, and Bernie Sanders.
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.
And there’s Michael Moore who allegedly worked to bust a union after making his rep advocating for unions.
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.
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.
What about Bernie Sanders?
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.” (The senator’s field director Phil Fiermonte saw it differently, telling the author that Sanders just has high expectations.)
An anonymous unfair labor practice charge against Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) 2020 presidential campaign alleges that at least three staffers were fired from the team for their involvement in organizing and labor activities, according to a redacted copy of the charge obtained by Bloomberg Law.
Part 4 is a slightly more obscure, but even more obnoxious figure, Pramila Jayapal, who may be somewhat more obscure than most Squad members, but is equally radical and often works with them on various causes. Like advocating for workers. Just not her workers.
Since her election to the House, Jayapal has repeatedly had one of the highest staff turnover rates in Congress, ranking 33rd out of 539 members from 2017 to 2020 — in the 94th percentile — according to the congressional tracking service LegiStorm, a reliable congressional data tracker. So far in 2021, that number has risen slightly: Jayapal is now in the 96th percentile for turnover, according to the LegiStorm analysis.
If Jayapal gets fat, it’s your fault.
At times, Jayapal also grew upset with staffers over scheduling conflicts. Three sources recalled one instance in the office when Jayapal blamed a staffer for the lawmaker’s personal weight gain because she did not have enough gym time on her schedule.
At least working for her keeps the shrinks busy.
Many Jayapal staffers have remained close even after leaving the office, having bonded over the “trauma,” as one described it. Several described needing a long period to adjust once they began a new job elsewhere.
The office environment “was so toxic and abusive that I felt like the only way I could continue to function both in my professional and personal life was to seek therapy and counseling,” one said. Ultimately, this person said, “I felt that leaving was the only choice.”
Labor relations were also poor in this progressive sweatshop.
Several former Jayapal employees said they frequently worked more than 12 hours a day, sometimes from 8 a.m. to past midnight without meaningful breaks.
That’s the sort of thing she would totally protest if it were happening at Amazon.
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