Mi Familia Vota Nevada staff resigns, citing ‘degrading work environment’
A majority of the Nevada branch of a national civic engagement organization focused on Latino communities resigned on Wednesday and Thursday, saying they were unhappy with a lack of investment and support from the organization’s “toxic” national leadership.
Over the past few years, Mi Familia Vota Nevada has played a major role in increasing civic participation among the Latino community, including registering and educating Latino voters, providing COVID-19 information in Spanish and working with the state to distribute the vaccine among Latino communities. The organization also has teams in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida and Texas.
But staff members, 18 of whom had resigned as of Thursday afternoon, said they couldn’t successfully continue their work because of their work environment, according to a source who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak freely about the situation. The mass resignation was first reported on Twitter by Nevada Current columnist Carrie Kaufman.
National Mi Familia Vota leaders provided a lengthy statement on Friday, saying “we cannot fight on behalf of our communities without supporting and uplifting our own staff,” and adding that the organization is constantly seeking to improve its benefits and compensation packages, as well as to provide ongoing professional development.
Officials from the national headquarters said the resignations began after an “investigation into some of the practices by the former managers” and that they could not comment further because the probe is ongoing.
In one resignation statement shared with The Nevada Independent, a Nevada staff member said the past month has been “strenuous and difficult” because of an absence of communication and interest from the national team. The staff member said they had not been contacted even once by a supervisor to check in about COVID-19 vaccine outreach work and whether they needed help.
“[Mi Familia Vota’s] national mission is to unite and advocate for workers rights and healthcare amongst other things,” the staff member wrote in the statement. “However, I feel the national team has disregarded the importance and urgency of our work altogether. That is why I have decided that I can no longer work under these conditions.”
While tension had been building among the staff, an incident this week pushed them to the edge. According to a source, someone from the national team threatened to call the police on an employee who is not a U.S. citizen in front of other staff members.
In their statement, national leadership described the situation on Dec. 8 as “an unfortunate incident by an employee who resigned and who became unruly and exhibited threatening behavior at our Las Vegas office.” The person was told that office building security would be called if they did not leave the premises.
“At no time did Mi Familia Vota threaten to, or call, law enforcement,” national leaders said.
The national organization is led by Executive Director and CEO Hector Sanchez Barba, Chief Development Officer Carlos Duarte and National Field Director Eduardo Sainz, among others.
Another local staff member addressed the incident in a second resignation letter to Mi Familia Vota leaders, also shared with The Nevada Independent.
“Given the events that occurred today, it has been made it feel as though we, as a staff, are entirely expendable and not valued despite the undeniable positive impact we have had in the community,” he wrote. “Doing the work we do, I’m sure you are aware of the unequivocal dangers this could put her into. This is not a healthy work environment, thus I have decided to resign.”
Las Vegas canvassers for the organization also cited the incident in a third resignation letter.
“This incident is only one example of the hostile, toxic, and degrading work environment that has been created at Mi Familia Vota,” they wrote. “We are sad to see an organization to which we have dedicated our time behave this way.”
Another staff member said she was told she didn’t understand politics, adding that she worked long hours with very little time off. When she approached the national team about this, they said it was a time management issue.
“I just couldn’t do it anymore,” she said.
The source called the resignations and work environment issues “unfortunate” because it mostly affects the staff and the community they work with.
“We’re going into a midterm election,” she said. “The Latino vote continues to be key in the swing vote especially here in Nevada. This is the time when we need to double down on our investments in the community. This is the time where we need to have a solid foundation to make sure that we’re empowering Latinos.”
National leadership said they are taking the situation in Las Vegas seriously and will offer all employees an exit interview “so we can hear directly from them.” In their statement, those leaders said “we believe strongly in both our leadership and team members, who provide us invaluable insights, values and experience that is taken into account and embedded in our work.”
The statement also said that Mi Familia Vota is “100% confident that we will continue to serve the communities in the state successfully and with integrity.”
The source from the local team added that with the ongoing pandemic, COVID-19 and combating misinformation remains a big issue for the Latino community.
And it hurts the staff members, who are now unemployed.
“Some of our workers, their income was the only income for the entire family,” the source said. “It’s affecting them during the pandemic and it’s affecting the community because of the services that we provide.”
The former staff member holds out hope that the work the staff members were doing in the community on behalf of Mi Familia Vota will continue.
“The entire team are people who are invested in the community,” the person said. “Whatever they do … they will continue to do the work. Mi Familia Vota was a platform and a label that gave us the opportunity to do the work. But whatever work was ever implemented in Nevada was never a vision of the national [team] — that was entirely built by all of us that were here.”
This story was updated at 1:34 p.m. on 12/10/21 to add statement from Mi Familia Vota national leadership.