Casandra Lowery came to the steps of New Haven’s public library to pick up an overdue $400 check for working on behalf of a Senate candidate she voted against.
Lowery was among more than a dozen African-American New Haveners who finally got paid Monday for working the polls for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon in last Tuesday’s election.
The workers claimed that they’d been led to expect payment after finishing their 16-hour shifts at the polls. Instead, they said, they got the runaround, and no money.
The McMahon campaign hired them as part of an aggressive, and resoundingly unsuccessful, effort to promote a split Obama-McMahon ticket in the black community.
After their payment plight made the news, the campaign contacted an organizer for the group, Twainedon Gomes, and others. Yes, the checks are in the mail, the campaign said. But if you’d like, you can come to the steps of New Haven’s downtown public library branch at 2 p.m. Monday and pick up your money.
So a crowd showed up and received $400 checks in return for signing a form saying they accepted the money as final payment for their work. They were told the checks that will purportedly still arrive in the mail will be canceled.
Luisa Guerra, who ran McMahon’s New Haven office, explained to the group that she was busy monitoring returns until late on election night; that’s why she wasn’t around to hand out checks, she said. Since then people have continually “harassed” her, she said, which is why she showed up with other staffers Monday with checks in tow. (Click on the play arrow to the above video to watch her interactions with the campaign workers.)
“It’s a shame it had to get to this point to get what is mine,” Casandra Lowery (pictured) said after picking up her check. Lowery in the past did campaign work for former Dixwell Alderman Greg Morehead, a Democrat. She was always paid election night, she said. “I never had this problem with Greg Morehead!”
Lowery said she’s a loyal Democrat. In fact, she said, she voted for Democrat Chris Murphy over Republican McMahon in last Tuesday’s election. So why did she work for McMahon?
“I did it for the money,” she said. “She pays good.”
When she pays.
Stacey Wormley (pictured) offered the same explanation. She too voted for Murphy, she said.
“It was a job. They didn’t ask us anything” about political leanings during the hiring process,” Wormley said. “We weren’t telling people to vote for her. We were asking people at doors did she have [their] vote.”
While she and others signed the forms and took the money, organizer Gomes (at left in photo) stood off to the side with McMahon campaign staffer Justin Clark (at right). Gomes said he had advised some campaign workers to stay home so he had some bargaining leverage.
Gomes didn’t want to settle for the promised hourly wage. He said he wanted to be made whole—for all the “pain and suffering” he endured in the episode.
What pain and suffering, exactly?
“My mental anguish,” he said, “making me walk three hours to get home.” He worked the Lombard Street firehouse. He said the campaign promised workers rides home. He claimed that when the ride didn’t materialize, he had to first walk an elderly woman, a fellow campaign worker, home to City Point, then walk to his own home in the Dixwell neighborhood.
He also spoke of “missing out on bills that were due.”
And, he said, “I’m scared. I’m going through a lot. I don’t even know if I’ll ever want to work for a campaign again.”
Meanwhile, he said after meeting with Clark, negotiations will continue.
posted by: robn on November 12, 2012 6:43pm
An elderly person walked 3 miles home and Mr Gomes wants to sue for anguish? Whaaaa!
posted by: ebw1957 on November 12, 2012 7:31pm
Lesson to future campaigns- save the money- it was a waste hiring these people. I have had many jobs that paid every two weeks, one now that pays once per month.
posted by: unionsteward35 on November 12, 2012 8:19pm
well I hope everyone remembers if this was how she (Linda) treated her own people what the hell would she had done to us once she got in office?
posted by: HhE on November 12, 2012 8:34pm
I’m choking on something—irony
posted by: southwest on November 12, 2012 8:38pm
Well this is what happen when you make a deal with the devil. Hope they have learned there lesson about being a “pawn” for a couple of dollars.
posted by: Noteworthy on November 12, 2012 8:50pm
These people are really trifling. Working for an aldermanic race in a specific defined area with one polling place is not the same as working for a statewide candidate with dozens of offices and polling places in 169 towns. I thought the first story was bad. This one makes them downright mercenary and they’re still paid less than a week after the election. They had to go through what? Walk home? That’s nothing and they get paid $400 for one day’s work? Geez. Trifling and ungrateful.
posted by: Miss E on November 13, 2012 11:20am
TISK, TISK, TISK…. enough said…
posted by: Tessa Marquis on November 13, 2012 7:08pm
I guess I have a different take on this story than other people making comments.
This story is indicative of the desperation of the unemployed and underemployed.
In similar circumstances, would your own political leanings cause you to turn down this money? Ethically, you might determine you were harming nobody, merely having an egotistic, delusional, empty suit pay a portion of this month’s bills.
Let’s have a little sympathy for the needy, and concentrate our anger on those like McMayhem, who try to manipulate people through money and fame.
posted by: swatty on November 13, 2012 10:55pm
I hope the New Haven Free Public Library is getting paid too!
Is Linda running a biz out of the library? She should be paying for that also!
I used my library card today! Did you?
posted by: streever on November 13, 2012 10:58pm
An awful lot of judgement here on the unemployed and desperate.
I’m disappointed in these comments.
Yes, these people behaved in a way that you find reprehensible but you know what? That is what you do when you’re desperate.
I don’t know how many of the people commenting here have actually been homeless, literally had:
1. 0 money
2. 0 food
3. 0 safe places to sleep
I have—I definitely would have worked for Linda McMahon for $400 in that instance, and I would have been upset when I wasn’t paid after a 16 hour shift.
That would have been time I could have spent doing what I did to get by then: light janitorial/clean-up work for some cash from a road side concession stand.
I’m appalled at the callousness of these comments. Try being poor for a few days, without your ivy league educations, and see what YOU’D do for $400 and how you’d behave.
Guerra and McMahon, who preyed on the desperate, are the only ones I’m interested in seeing feel shame on this.
posted by: HhE on November 14, 2012 2:25am
Every time I disagree with streever, and it does happen from time to time, I figure I did not pay close enough attention, or that I am losing the touch with my humanity/empathy/decency. Thanks for adjusting my moral compass.
There is still a lot of irony, some of it I find distressing.
There is the unreasonable expectation that Linda McMahon would promptly pay her debts. Remember how much she made of her filling for bankruptcy? It was only when not paying her debts (moral, if not legal) during a second, largely self financed, Senatorial campaign, that paid up.
Then there is the unreasonable expectation that she would treat her workers well. New Haven is a bit removed from Stamford, but it is well know in those parts how badly WWE’s employees are treated. I had a friend that was fired after three months there. He wasn’t worried as getting fired before one could gain a 401k or expectation of severance was a given, and thus would not hurt his resume.
I am relived that I underestimated voter wisdom. I was worried that she just might win, and I had terrible visions of her squeaking out a victory because of these campain workers—who would then have suffered by her hand as she sought to cut social programs.
There is a danger when one will do anything for money: born out of desperate poverty, or great greed. I see it with our city when short term gain is put ahead of long term good.
posted by: Miss E on November 14, 2012 8:31am
@Streever-AMEN.. I see more and more, on a daily basis, that people are so quick to pass judgement on the next person. First of all, you don’t know that persons’ situation. Second, you never know where YOUR own life may take you and that will one day be you and third, it’s not our job to sit in judgement of other people, that is reserved for one and one only.m That $400(which by the way in not alot of money these days) may have bought a winter coat for a child, filled the fridge or meant having heat versus sleeping in sweat pants. Come on people,
posted by: robn on November 14, 2012 10:18am
I appreciate the compassion shown to people working for Linda McMahon (putting their immediate interests before their long term interests) but you have to ask yourself, “would I be as forgiving if Linda McMahon won the Senate seat?”
posted by: Noteworthy on November 14, 2012 10:25am
I don’t judge the work. I judge the expectation of getting paid the same day with no paperwork, no time sheets, no accounting. All of these expenditures have to be captured and reported to both the feds and the state. That these people can’t wait a very few days without demeaning the organization that hired them and paid them 4xand minimum wage to stand around and wear T-shirts is what I find distasteful and ungrateful. I have lived in a rooming house for$2 a day; been a day laborer with the lowest of the low and was paid $31.24 per day after taxes and commission to the agency. There is a bias to trash McMahon for hiring these folks which when they complain they’re not being paid turns into another negative story that is both untrue and unfounded. To wait less than a week to get paid and do accounting is not unreasonable. The campaign hired people all over the state. These people are unreasonable as are those who criticize the campaign. What would you have them do? Act like democrats and hand out cash? And by the way, being poor and desperate does not give one license to be trifling and irresponsible. They should be grateful for the work that paid them $25 per hour. If they’re that desperate hold City hall responsible for the lack of opportunity.
posted by: TLKensington on November 14, 2012 4:21pm
I don’t feel bad for these individuals. Most normal jobs pay on a weekly or biweekly basis. God forbid they have to wait like most people for a check. I’m sure some used it for clothes, rent or another essential. But I wouldn’t be shocked if some of the money went towards drugs. I quick search of these names in the Connecticut criminal database shows several convictions. Lots of drug crimes and assaults. There are also tons of problems being paid day of. Will these individuals pay taxes? Will individuals that need to pay child support pay it? How will the state track their wages if the person is on unemployment? It takes time to be paid legally. Next time they should post these positions on reputable job sites. I would love to stand at the polls for one day and make $400.