Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, accelerating his efforts to contain the damage from reports of sexism during his 2016 presidential campaign, plans to meet on Wednesday with a group of former staff members seeking assurances of better practices if he runs again in 2020.
As other potential presidential candidates prepare to roll out campaigns with forceful, positive messaging, Sanders and his supporters have instead been forced to play defense, addressing allegations during his last presidential bid.
On Wednesday, his campaign plans to hold a meeting in Washington with former campaign workers to discuss the treatment of women going forward, according to some invitees and people close to Sanders. Sanders’ campaign arm began reaching out to the former staff members to help make travel arrangements and intends to pay for air travel and hotel expenses, the people said.
Sanders plans to attend in person for a portion of the meeting.
The meeting comes in response to a letter sent two weeks ago by more than two dozen people who worked on Sanders’ 2016 campaign, asking for a meeting with the senator and his leadership team to discuss issues of harassment.
Separately, supporters held house parties across the country on Saturday urging Sanders to run, and part of a livestream presentation for the event focused on workplace conduct. Sheila Healy, who worked on Sanders’ re-election campaign for his Senate seat in Vermont last year, described steps his Senate campaign had taken to make it more inclusive — including new human-resources policies that she said were posted on walls in all of the campaign’s offices. She reassured viewers that these policies would be in place should he run again in 2020.
Healy had been asked by a moderator to discuss the measures put in place in 2018 to ensure that people working on the campaign “felt welcome and empowered and respected” and what the implications would be for 2020.
“In 2018 here in Vermont, Bernie’s campaign took some of the lessons that we learned from 2016 and used them to create new policies that were designed to ensure that accountability, respect and professionalism stay a part of our culture,” Healy said.
In the last two weeks, The New York Times and Politico have published reports with accounts of harassment and discrimination from former workers in Sanders’ 2016 campaign. Sanders has twice apologized publicly to women who were mistreated, and promised to do better if he runs again.
The steps Sanders and his supporters have taken over the last week underscore the sense of urgency Sanders now faces as he prepares for a likely 2020 campaign. Though he has not yet announced that he intends to run for president again, he has told aides and advisers that a decision is coming soon.