Bloomberg Campaign Admits to Using Prison Labor

A history of malfeasance reveals a morally flawed man

Mark Weiss
Dec 28, 2019 · 4 min read

About a month ago, I wrote a less-than-flattering piece about presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg’s less-than-consistent political views. And after 1,000 or so words decrying the pitiful self-aggrandizement tour that is his campaign, I decided that dedicating any more time to writing about this laughable fraud would be wasteful. I’d be better served spending my time writing about, well, pretty much anything else.

But then, The Intercept reported on December 24th that one of his vendors “hired a subcontractor that used prison workers to make phone calls for his 2020 campaign.”

Now, to his credit, Bloomberg immediately cut ties with the vendor and criticized their methods in a tweet that afternoon. He absolutely does deserve praise for his swift and decisive action in separating himself from a vendor with such reprehensible practices. However, he admitted that his campaign was “unaware” that prison inmates were coerced into campaigning on his behalf until reporters from The Intercept contacted them for comment.

Without any evidence to the contrary, it is acceptable to take Bloomberg at his word and attribute his ignorance on this matter to the incredibly complex, fragmented authority required of modern presidential campaigns. But in so doing one has to wonder: what else is Bloomberg unaware of?

Again, this is assuming we attribute the most benign motives possible to his many misdeeds. One area Bloomberg repeatedly runs into problems is with women. He has a history of making disparaging, sexist comments about women’s bodies and has created an incredibly toxic work environment for his female employees. In 1996 and 1997, four former employees sued Bloomberg LP for sexual harassment, alleging that Bloomberg routinely made grotesque comments about them. One of those women, Sekiko Garrison, claimed that Bloomberg pressured her to have an abortion so that she would not have to take maternity leave (“Kill it!” he said, referring to the fetus) and that he once said to a colleague, “I’d do her,” something Bloomberg admits to saying.

He was sued again several years later, this time by Mary Ann Olszewski, a rape survivor who Bloomberg tried to discredit by claiming that lawsuits over sexual assault are women just making “a fuss.” That Olszewski was attacked by her direct supervisor only lends further credibility to the allegations of a constantly toxic work environment which Bloomberg at best facilitated and at worst cultivated.

Are these just instances of Bloomberg’s tone deafness about women? That is, is Bloomberg well meaning but ignorant moron who doesn’t know what is acceptable to say to and about women? Doubtful. The former mayor evidently has a long history of sexual harassment, and many of his comments regarding #metoo matters highlight a sort of depraved cautiousness expressed solely by the movement’s skeptics. He has suggested that courts should handle claims about sexual assault since he has “doubt” about the veracity of many allegations made in recent years.

Bloomberg’s patent disregard for the women who work for him show a callous indifference to the plight of his subordinates. And he should be ashamed that his own problematic views of women have fueled his efforts to undermine the legitimate complaints of those who work for him.

But surely, a skeptic might claim, Bloomberg has changed since then, since there is no evidence that he has mistreated his employees since starting his campaign. After all, he pays his staffers a generous $70–80k a year! Of course, this is so high a wage that some critics have argued it incentivizes workers to join a high-paying campaign to work for an individual with whom they do not agree ideologically.

But how responsible he’s been with his news agency! He pledged not to investigate any of his rivals in the Democratic party using his vast media outlet Bloomberg. And he stuck to his word, if you don’t count all of the times he has investigated his rivals in the Democratic party using his vast media outlet Bloomberg. Like recently, when journalist Spencer Soper published a disingenuous hit-piece on Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, decrying their use of Amazon’s services during the campaign. This article was the result of a niche journalistic technique called “investigating,” which some have argued demonstrates that Bloomberg may have “lied” about staying neutral.

I could go on about the $100 million he’s spent on television advertisements, an unimaginably vast sum that would be much better spent addressing the time-sensitive and important issues of our time. But I think at this point I’ve made it clear that Bloomberg is a horrible candidate who, despite professing good intentions, ignores sexual harassment claims and abuses the power of his news outlet. Some may argue that these actions are unintentional, that much like his use of prison labor, his comments were not meant to be sexist and his articles were not meant to disparage his opponents. Though it would seem that, for decades, Bloomberg has engaged in a pattern of reprehensible behavior, and that coincidence is simply not a plausible explanation anymore.

None of this is to say that Bloomberg intentionally hired convicts to work on his campaign, or even that, at the very least, cared so little about others that he didn’t properly vet his vendors.

But there’s no denying that his claim to ignorance should be doubted given this pattern of malfeasance. Bloomberg clearly is a horribly flawed individual who is not fit for office.

Do not vote for this man.

The Polis

Thought-provoking articles on politics, philosophy, and…

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store