Twenty-four staffers who worked for Amara Enyia’s 2019 mayoral campaign have filed a grievance with the Illinois Department of Labor against their former employer and the campaign’s senior staff, alleging unpaid wages, unreimbursed expenses, bounced checks and violations of the state’s minimum wage laws. 

The ex-staffers allege that Enyia, a prominent West Side activist, owes them $56,825. According to the Illinois State Board of Elections, as of June 30, her campaign had $5,296 — $4,000 of which came from two donations. The workers allege that, even though Eniya knew she couldn’t pay them, she let the staffers believe that they would be paid. 

In their complaint, the campaign workers accuse Enyia, campaign manager Joshua Gray, field director Marcus Ferrell, operations director Pilar Audain-Reed and campaign treasurer Deanna Grant of “the failure to disperse wages and overtime to 24 junior level staffers, the failure to reimburse for promised expenses,” giving them paychecks that were bounced for being “fictitious and insufficient,” and not telling the staff the campaign wouldn’t be able to pay them. 

They also allege that, while the campaign originally promised to pay them by March 15, after the Feb. 26 municipal election, Enyia and her senior staff instead “continued to engage in a pattern of deflection, minimization and neglect.”

In a statement on her campaign Facebook page, Enyia described the allegations as “unsettling” because the staffers voted not to have her support either Toni Preckwinckle or Lori Lightfoot, knowing that it would make it harder for her to raise money. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the former campaign workers denied that the vote Enyia mentioned ever took place, insisting that she made the decision on her own. 

According to state election records, on Feb. 27 and Feb. 28, the Enyia campaign paid a total of $4,686.25 to four employees, but no one else had been paid as of June 30. And between Jan. 1 and March 31, paychecks for several separate employees were sent to the same address: 728 S. Oakley Ave., floor two. According to Chicago Tonight, the address belonged to Enyia’s sister.

Enyia has insisted that she’s been trying to raise the money ever since, and that she had started “making partial payments to the campaign staff as a show of good faith.” 

Enyia has a history of money issues. According to a Feb. 1, 2019 Chicago Tribune investigation, she didn’t report $21,000 she made in 2017 while consulting for Chris Kennedy’s gubernatorial campaign even though that accounted for a third of her income. She also didn’t disclose that job when filing paperwork after she declared her Chicago mayoral candidacy. Enyia originally claimed that the Kennedy campaign sent her the form too late only to later claim that she forgot to include it.

The investigation also discovered that in March 2017, the IRS placed a $9,668 lien against her for unpaid taxes between 2011 and 2015. Enyia told the Tribune that was she originally underpaid in 2011 due to a “clerical error” and that the rest were late fees that accumulated because she struggled to pay off what she owed — but she declined to provide documentation to support her version of events. 

When Enyia ran for mayor in 2015, she didn’t close her campaign account, leading to around $73,000 in fines from the state board of elections. In 2019, rapper Kanye West contributed $200,000, which helped to cover the debt.  

According to an NBC 5 report, Kristi Kucera, Enyia’s former communications director, left the campaign in December 2018 citing “several unknown and troubling factors” preventing her from continuing on as Enyia’s spokesperson.

In February 2019, Kucera filed a lawsuit alleging that Enyia refused to pay her $24,000 in back pay for work she did on the campaign. 

According to an ABC 7 report: “Enyia’s campaign manager said that Kucera understood she was working on a volunteer basis when she started, but she then quit before the two sides agreed on a paid position. Kucera said she made her rate of $6,000 a month clear at the beginning, but agreed to wait to be paid because Enyia had no money. She would eventually get $200,000 from Kanye West and another $400,000 from Chance the Rapper.”


Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...