NYC Mayoral Candidate Dianne Morales Defiant After Attempted ‘Coup’ On Her Campaign
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Dianne Morales, a nonprofit executive who is running for mayor of New York City, posted a defiant video message in the campaign’s Slack channel on Friday morning after days of internal campaign turmoil.
In the clip, obtained by The Uprising, Morales expressed support for a unionization drive that began among her staff and said recent firings were not an effort to disrupt the organizing efforts (which have led to a partial work stoppage). Morales also insisted she’s staying in the race despite behind-the-scenes drama.
“I am hopeful that I’ll be able to work things through with the folks that are organizing the union so that we can come to the table, and come to an agreement, and move forward together,” Morales said in the video. “In the meantime, I’m not going anywhere. We have worked really hard to build this campaign. We actually have done transformative things, we have made history.”
In recent days, volunteers raised concerns about a lack of transparency from the campaign and pushed for answers from Morales. In the video. Morales thanked her volunteers that have stuck by her during the turmoil.
“Thank you for your fierce and unwavering belief in the possibilities and for being a loving disruptor.”
A social media account representing the “Mayorales Union” characterized some of the firings as “the terminations of our union leaders” and suggested it was an attempt to thwart the organizing effort. The “Mayorales Union” is holding a work stoppage “in solidarity with our members who deserve to be treated with respect.
A Morales campaign source who spoke to The Uprising painted a more complex picture of the situation, which they described as a “coup” attempt. In a conversation with The Uprising on Friday, Morales described that characterization as “accurate.”
“I am in full support of them unionizing,” she said. “I think that the way they need to do that is to be inclusive of everyone. They have left some of the staff out… I think that’s been divisive and harmful, so I’m hopeful that they will address their missteps and engage in some good faith organizing.”
On Tuesday, The Uprising was first to report that some on Morales’ team were concerned about alleged misconduct by members of the staff. There were also some who felt the campaign was an abusive work environment. Those accusations included the campaign’s mistreatment of people of color and the candidate’s perceived protection of close allies who were accused of impropriety.
In the internal video, Morales explained that two people were fired from the staff after an investigation into serious alleged misconduct. As she described the situation, Morales admitted her operation had not lived up to the progressive values she espouses on the campaign trail.
“A couple of weeks ago I became aware of some pretty egregious allegations about staff, started an investigation, demoted someone, and ultimately let them both go,” Morales stated. “The reality of it is that there’d been a lot of damage done. The reality also is that the campaign did not have the structure, the systems, or the operations in place to make sure that people were protected. In many ways, we replicated the very systemic and structural issues that this campaign has intended to repair in our city.”
Staffers were also upset that Morales skipped an “accountability meeting” that was held on Monday that was meant to air grievances. The campaign ultimately held a meeting to address the issues on Tuesday. The campaign source, who requested anonymity to discuss confidential campaign meetings, said that the meeting lasted for several hours and that Morales did not initially participate until “three to four hours into it.” According to the source, some of the staffers who were later dismissed began the union push during Morales’ absence from that discussion.
“They didn’t feel Morales was being responsive to their concerns and they sort of voted to have a coup,” the source said. “That was the literal term they used.”
The union leaders’ demands included being able to pick the next campaign manager, the source said. Multiple sources said that meeting did not include the full campaign team and there was no formal all-staff vote. Morales subsequently fired four members of her team who were involved in the union effort.
“The people who were fired, you could say they were union leaders, but I don’t think they were actually supported by the entire staff,” the source said. “They wanted to take over the entire campaign and Dianne was like, ‘If they’re not supported by all the staff and if they want to take over the campaign, I’ll fire them even if it could be considered union busting.”
Morales somewhat vaguely alluded to some of the discord in her video on Friday morning.
“The process has been challenging,” she stated. “I’ve been working to regain the confidence of the team by evaluating our structures and taking a hard look at what we need. Unfortunately, that also involved making some decisions about members of the team that needed to be let go.”
In her subsequent conversation with The Uprising, Morales stressed her support for a campaign union that includes participation from her full team. She expressed hope the union would “engage in some good faith organizing so that they can move forward with the union efforts.”
“I have been in full support of them unionizing. I think that the way that they need to do that is to be inclusive of everyone. They have left some of the staff out,” Morales said, adding, “I think that’s been divisive and harmful, so I’m hopeful that they will address their missteps
Polls showed Morales trailing the top tier of candidates in the crowded Democratic primary field even prior to the recent issues on her team.
With less than a month until the crucial primary on June 22, there have been at least six departures from her staff including her former campaign manager Whitney Hu. The exits have included a mix of resignations and firings. On Thursday night, one of Morales’ senior organizers, Farudh Emiel Majid, urged her to drop out of the race.
The candidate has also faced scrutiny over her past support for charter schools and a bribery scandal. Furthermore, in the wee hours of Friday morning, The Uprising published an exclusive story detailing a 2017 lawsuit where Morales was accused of being a “negligent” landlord. In that suit, which was settled in 2019, a former tenant claimed they were seriously injured by “dangerous” and dirty conditions in a building owned by Morales.
In her conversation with The Uprising, Morales denied the woman’s claim that she was leasing an apartment in the building when she was injured on a “hazardous” staircase. Morales said the woman was “just visiting” when the injury took place in 2016.
“That was not a tenant that was someone who was in my home,” Morales said. “It was a slip and fall down the stairs and, unfortunately, she decided to sue.”
Hilda Suarez Osorio, the woman who sued Morales, could not be reached for comment. Her lawsuit described her as “a tenant” who was leasing space in the multifamily home, which is owned by Morales. The attorney who represented her in the lawsuit, Robert Abruzzino, has not responded to a request for comment.
Morales also denied there were dangerous conditions on the staircase.
“I wholeheartedly deny that,” she said. “It was the stairs that i go up and down every day.”
According to the lawsuit, the “dangerous, broken, defective, and hazardous conditions” included “obstructions of trash, cat litter, debris, and/or otherwise objects that a reasonable individual would not expect to be found on or near a staircase.” The complaint also said the staircase had an “improperly constructed, maintained, repaired, and arranged handrails/bannisters.”
Despite all of these issues, Morales was adamant that she still has a chance to win the race.
“Sure I do!” Morales said. “The folks who are organizing … it’s not all of the staff. So, I do have some staff that are still working for the campaign and we’re continuing to move forward.”