Illustration for article titled NDAs Arent Just a Bloomberg Thing: Bernie Sanders Campaign Group Handled Racial Discrimination Allegations With Nondisclosure Agreement
Photo: Scott Olson (Getty Images)

It’s been just about a week and a half since Sen. Elizabeth Warren went all the way in on former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg over his use of nondisclosure agreements in dealing with sexual harassment/assault allegations during the last Democratic primary debate. Well, it appears that Bloomberg’s isn’t the only campaign that uses NDA’s to cover up their wrongs.

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According to AP News, Sen. Bernie Sanders — who is often touted as a civil rights ally and is currently clamoring for the black vote along with his fellow primary candidates — founded a group that has also used legally binding “zip-it” contracts forcing black people to remain silent about racism they’ve experienced while working on the Vermont senator’s campaign.

From AP News:

A political advocacy group founded by Bernie Sanders entered into a nondisclosure agreement with an African American political consultant that bars her from discussing a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination at the organization and the Vermont senator’s 2016 presidential campaign.

The consultant, Tezlyn Figaro, confirmed the existence of the nondisclosure agreement to The Associated Press without providing additional details.

The deal is tied to a 2019 lawsuit in which Figaro said she was fired from the Sanders-created political group Our Revolution a year earlier due to her race and in “retaliation for complaining about the organization’s treatment towards her and African-Americans.” The lawsuit was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount of money. Though the lawsuit was aimed at Our Revolution, it included broad criticism of Sanders’ campaign, arguing an all-white leadership staff “was accused of racism” by black staffers and failed to engage black voters.

Last year, Sanders acknowledged and apologized for the mistreatment of women and people of color who worked on his 2016 campaign and, along with his advisers, has vowed that his 2020 run for the presidency will not be plagued with such issues as corrective measures have been enacted and Sanders, in his own words, is building a “multiracial, multi-generational movement” to defeat President Donald Trump.

“To women in our campaign who were harassed or mistreated, I apologize,” Sanders said last year. “Our standards, our procedures, our safeguards, were clearly inadequate.”

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It’s worth mentioning that Sanders was a lot more contrite in his apology than he was when he initially responded to the 2016 allegations by telling CNN he was simply a “little bit busy running around the country trying to make the case.”

But Sanders’ new attitude towards his campaign’s handling of mistreatment allegations and his vow to do better appears to fall flat with legal experts who say that any continued use of NDA’s will undermine any effort to improve conditions.

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“Anyone running for the presidency should be accountable to the electorate, and we should have access to the full set of information,” said Debra S. Katz, a prominent employment attorney in Washington who is a supporter of Elizabeth Warren, according to AP. “If the allegations are about his campaign and running a racist operation, he should direct this organization to let her out of those non-disparagement obligations and talk about it,” She continued referencing Figaro.

Figaro isn’t the only one who has had past grievances with Our Revolution. John Solomon, who was based in Atlanta for the 2016 campaign, said this about his experience with the group, according to AP:

“People will say it’s not a racial issue, but if I’m hired to gain support from African Americans and you go direct me to do something other than reach out to the African American community, what are we doing?”

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He, along with other black-outreach staffers, said that the team booked several successful events, including a rally at Morehouse College, but after resources began to dwindle, so did the respect Sanders’ campaign showed for them as Our Revolution began blowing them off. He also said news of Figaro’s nondisclosure agreement reinforces his experience on the 2016 campaign.

“I know he wants to move past this, but I feel that he still has some work to do.”

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Apparently Sanders’ campaign is also aware of the work still needing to be done. In a statement, Sanders campaign spokeswoman Sarah Ford said, “We oppose using NDAs to silence the victims of toxic workplace issues.”

We’ll see, I guess, but this certainly doesn’t sound like “Our Revolution.”

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

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