Over 90 field organizers for the Florida Democratic Party signed a scathing letter Friday to the party’s leadership, claiming among other things that the campaign is “suppressing the Hispanic vote” in Central Florida.
The seven-page internal letter, obtained by the Miami Herald, contains eight allegations from field organizers about what they say is a lack of a “fully actionable field plan” from the Biden campaign as it transitions into the Florida party to coordinate voter outreach efforts.
This letter comes 100 days out from the general election and as recent polls show enthusiasm about voting among Latinos in battleground states like Florida could be waning in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the claims: mistreatment of field organizers, relocating trained staff members without explanation, lack of organizing resources and taking on volunteers who are then left in limbo.
In a battleground state where elections are historically won by thin margins — and as presidential campaigns ramp up outreach efforts in Florida’s Hispanic communities — organizers claim that the Coordinated Campaign lacks key infrastructure and perpetuates a “toxic” work culture that is hurting morale among on-the-ground staffers.
One big issue is that at least a handful of organizers were recently transferred from a heavily-Puerto Rican part of the state to counties with a small percentage of Hispanics.
“Four of five Spanish-speaking organizers along the I-4 corridor who were moved to North Florida were Puerto Rican,” the letter says.
Field organizers add that input from staffers connected to Puerto Ricans living in Central Florida is often dismissed.
“The [Coordinated Campaign of Florida] is suppressing the Hispanic vote by removing Spanish-speaking organizers from Central Florida without explanation, which fails to confront a system of white-dominated politics we are supposed to be working against as organizers of a progressive party,” the letter adds.
A Democratic official familiar with internal discussions who asked not to be named said the letter comes amid negotiations between the Coordinated Campaign in Florida and the field organizers’ union, the IBEW Local 824.
The official said organizers have not been updated on their individual assignments due to the ongoing union negotiations, which predate the letter.
Jackie Lee, Biden for President Florida state director, said in a statement the campaign has an “open-door policy” and its leadership in Florida is consulting with IBEW Local 824 on “many of the issues” discussed in the letter.
“We look forward to discussing them with organizers and getting their feedback as soon as able,” Lee said. “The stakes of this election are critical, and we are committed to working with our organizers and Florida Democrats at every level in order to build a strong, successful Coordinated Campaign.”
Lee added that for the past six weeks, “no staff are asked to move or relocate, either from out of state or within states.”
The 94 signatories, most of whom have been working directly with the FDP, are responsible for the day-to-day outreach of potential voters, including phone banking and community organizing to campaign for candidates at the local, statewide and presidential levels.
The letter, which several sources told the Herald was circulated Friday among the leadership of the state’s Coordinated Campaign, was sent days after Florida Democratic County chairs expressed similar concerns to party leadership that the Biden campaign risks repeating some of the same mistakes of the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016.
Organizers say in the memo that while they have expressed frustration with the campaign’s missteps in Florida, some staff members have been “lectured” as a result, and their concerns dismissed as “unnecessary and wrong.” And the signatories stress that while some employees have been brought from out of state to supervise field staffers, the state party’s field organizers have not been given priority.
“We are roughly 100 days out from the election, and there is no functional targeted field outreach and organizing of the Hispanic/Spanish-speaking, Brazilian/Portuguese-speaking, and Haitian/Creole-speaking communities in our state,” the letter states. “There are no targets, scripts, data infrastructure, community outreach, or phonebanks established for this.”
Among the requests from the field organizers is for the Coordinated Campaign to:
▪ Apologize for “treatment of field staff;”
▪ Commit to restoring organizers back to their original locations;
▪ Give adequate notice of planned events and job openings;
▪ Resume previous organizing activities that have been halted;
▪ Provide more support to county chairs.
“It is necessary to emphasize that despite this lack of preparedness by leadership, existing productive work was halted and the little strategy that was shared is ill-suited for the new dynamics of remote organizing,” organizers said in the letter.
In recent general election polls, the former vice president appears to be leading President Donald Trump, including among Hispanic voters. In Florida, the Democratic Party official added that the Coordinated Campaign is still recruiting bilingual organizers in Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange and Osceola counties ahead of the election.
And in an effort to further their engagement with Hispanics, the Biden campaign announced earlier this month it was coordinating with one of the nation’s top Hispanic polling firms, Latino Decisions.
Still, according to field organizers who spoke with the Herald on the condition of anonymity over fears of retaliation, they attribute the lack of the communication in part to a generational gap within the party’s structure.
“A lot of the field organizers are young and with that comes different views of workplace norms, the kind of culture that we want to establish,” said one field organizer who is currently based in Central Florida.
“The way you treat your lowest ranked employees says a lot about you as an organization … especially in electoral work, when organizers are the ones on the front lines, they ones you’re asking to make 400 calls a day, the ones you’re asking to make real connections with voters on the ground,” the organizer said.
Another organizer said being asked to suddenly relocate has led to uncertainty over housing in the midst of the raging COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were told that we would get placement calls about where we thought we should be best placed and where we’d be most effective,” the organizer said. “A number of organizers didn’t even get those calls. … Since then, as we kind of merged into the Coordinating Campaign, we just haven’t been kept in the loop.”
The field organizer based in Central Florida said that while they all have a unified goal, many organizers feel unheard and unseen by the Coordinated Campaign in the few months leading up to the election.
“It’s disappointing, but i can’t say that I’m surprised,” the staffer said. “I just hope that it will be reckoned with soon.”