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Former staffers of Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate explain why they're suing over racism

Former staffers of Democratic Illinois gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker are speaking out to explain why they are suing the campaign for racial discrimination. Pritzker's campaign denied the claims . (Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker is facing a lawsuit from former staffers over allegations of racial discrimination. Pritzker's campaign denied the claims and said the accusers are extorting him for money, causing the plaintiffs to speak out in defense of their case.

What are the details?

Ten people are suing Pritzker. Nine of them are black, and one is Latina. The plaintiffs allege that the campaign forced minority staffers to work in unsafe neighborhoods, and favored white employees for promotions in an atmosphere the lawsuit called a "cesspool of racial discrimination and harassment," WSIL-TV reported.

Pritzker responded to the suit in a statement, saying, "To be clear, this is just not true. I am incredibly proud of our campaign, how diverse it is, and how inclusive our administration will be."

His campaign pointed to a letter from the plaintiffs' attorney threatening legal action if a $7.5 million payment was not made within one day.

In order to clear their names over the extortion accusation, the former staffers spoke to WBBM-TV to explain why they are suing.

"This is about justice, which has no price tag," plaintiff Celia Colon said. "I don't have to be mistreated or abused by anyone, and I will not allow that. This fight is bigger than me. This is a fight that my children will be fighting if I do not fight."

Former Pritzker field organizer Maxwell Little chimed in, "Yes, the campaign hired black and brown employees. However, our black- and brown-ness remains a fundamental category of disempowerment within the campaign."

In the introductory paragraph of the lawsuit, the staffers allege:

JB Pritzker for Governor has a race problem. Although they hire African Americans and Latinos as campaign workers, the vast majority are herded into race-specific positions where they are expected to interact with the public, offered no meaningful change for advancement, and receive less favorable treatment than their white counterparts who engage with, as the campaign sees it, a more desirable constituency.

Anything else?

On Monday, Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen said in a statement that there was no basis for the allegations made in the lawsuit and that the campaign plans to ask a judge to dismiss the case once they are formally served with the suit.

"Everything about the way this has been handled, from the threat to sue unless a $7.5 million payment was made to the fact that their lawyer seems far more interested in conducting interviews and holding press conferences than even serving necessary papers that would allow the case to be dismissed, tell you all you need to know," Slayen's statement said.

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