More DNC staffers sue party for unpaid OT

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Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her running mate Tim Kaine stand on stage as the balloons fall on the final night of the DNC at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday, July 28, 2016. More former Democratic Party staffers added their names to a federal wage-and-hour lawsuit claiming that the party had improperly failed to pay them overtime.

The day before President Trump was sworn into office, more former Democratic Party staffers added their names to a federal wage-and-hour lawsuit claiming that the party improperly failed to pay them overtime.

On Thursday, former staffers working in Florida, North Carolina, Missouri, Virginia, and Michigan joined the case, suing the national Democratic Party organization as well as the state organizations. This brought the number of plaintiffs to seven, with more expected to join.

"I don't want to harm the Democratic Party," former staffer Bethany Katz, 21, of Rosemont, said when the suit was filed in Philadelphia in November, days after Hillary Clinton lost her bid for the presidency. "I just want it to stand up for the principles it puts forth." 

Katz said she was a believer in Clinton's cause. "I wanted to be a part of history. It was unfortunate she didn't win," she said. 

"Even while defendants campaigned to enhance and expand the ability of low- and middle-income people to be paid a fair salary and overtime, those same principles were ignored in denying their own organizers overtime pay for the extremely long hours required by campaign work," according to the lawsuit, filed by Cherry Hill lawyer Justin L. Swidler of Swartz Swidler LLC.

The Democratic National Committee declined to comment Monday, but last month the Pennsylvania Democratic Party asked the court to order Katz's lawyer to stop filing documents for additional Pennsylvania plaintiffs until U.S. District Judge C. Darnell Jones II asked for them.

In an interview in November, Katz said she routinely worked seven days a week as an organizer from June to August, often putting in 12-hour-plus days, clocking 80 to 90 hours a week for a $3,000-a-month paycheck. The suit said Katz and the others were improperly classified as salaried workers who did not have to be paid overtime.

Those kinds of hours are routine in political campaigns, said Neil Oxman, founder of the Philadelphia-based Campaign Group, who has worked on "hundreds and hundreds of races" on the national, state and local levels.

"People know these jobs are 80- to 100-hour-a-week jobs. No one asks for overtime. If they did, people would think they were joking," he said. 

Swidler dismissed the idea that long, uncompensated hours are just part of campaign culture. "It's illegal," he said. "The realities are that there are a lot of industries that would like to make their people work 80 to 90 hours a week and not pay them."