More Pritzker Staffers Allege ‘Demeaning' Discrimination

Several former Pritzker campaign staffers told NBC 5 they spoke directly to J.B. Pritzker and Juliana Stratton about concerns of mistreatment.

In the wake of a lawsuit filed by former J.B. Pritzker campaign staffers alleging racial discrimination and harassment, Pritzker and his running mate, Juliana Stratton, said no one voiced concerns to them of mistreatment.

That's in contrast to the narratives of several former staffers who left the campaign. They told NBC 5 they did speak directly to both Pritzker and Stratton.

The lawsuit filed by 10 campaign staffers, all black and Latino, has been questioned for its timing with just 19 days left before Election Day.

A letter from their attorney before the suit was filed requested $7.5 million. Several former staffers, who spoke to NBC 5 anonymously out of concerns of retaliation, said they experienced racism and harassment.

In response to Thursday's allegations, the Pritzker campaign said in a statement, "our campaign is committed to advancing the cause of equality in the workplace and preventing workplace discrimination and will continue its advancement of those shared interests." 

Former staffers alleged in the suit they were herded into race-specific jobs and had no opportunity for advancement. They said they received less favorable treatment than their white counterparts.

Pritzker and Stratton said no one voiced these concerns directly to them.

"Not to me directly, not to me," Pritzker said.

"I have not either," Stratton added.

However, four former staffers not named in the lawsuit told NBC 5 that after FBI tapes were revealed of Pritzker telling former (and now imprisoned) Gov. Rod Blagojevich that Secretary of State Jesse White was the least offensive choice to replace then Sen. Barack Obama, Pritzker and Stratton reached out directly to black campaign workers. That’s when the staffers said they first voiced discrimination complaints to them.

One ex-staffer not named in the lawsuit said the working conditions were unsafe. Moldy carpet, dead bugs on the desks every morning, and "we were treated very demeaning and micro-managed," they said. That same ex-staffer said there were rats inside one Chicago office.

The attorney for the staffers who filed the lawsuit said they felt unsafe and questioned why the candidate did not visit the field office on the South Side.

"As the lawsuit lays out, they were told maybe if the people in the neighborhood stop shooting maybe Pritzker would come," attorney Shay Allen said.

Pritzker's team forwarded to NBC 5 a calendar showing Pritzker visited the South Side and Far South Side six times, the last one in July. On the West Side, there were two visits, but nothing since the primary.

"The allegations made in the published complaint mirror the same treatment that I faced," another former staffer told NBC 5.

A third former campaign staffer reached out to NBC 5 to note what they referred to as the "unfair treatment, hostile and oppressive behavior" from a supervisor and that left that staffer "rebuffed, ignored and ultimately dismissed, fired for voicing my concerns over J.B.'s discriminatory practices” that are similar to what’s named in the lawsuit.

"I'm proud of the fact that the majority of my senior staff are African American," Pritzker said. "About 45 percent of our staff all across the state are people of color, we've run a great campaign."

Who will the former staffers vote for in this election?

"That is the heaviest question I have right now," one of them told NBC 5.

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