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'Coerced' campaign worker files complaint for pay
By Ted Cox | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 12/4/2009 12:00 AM

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A state EarnFare worker who claims to have collected petition signatures for Clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court Dorothy Brown in her bid for County Board president filed a formal complaint with the state Department of Labor today saying he hadn't been paid for the work he was coerced into doing, illegal though it might have been.

Barry Johnson of Chicago said he collected 1,000 signatures for Brown and had been promised a dollar a signature by her campaign field director, Hasan Muhammad. Brown publicly ended her association with Muhammad after news broke that he had used state EarnFare workers to collect signatures.

Brown's campaign spokesman did not reply to requests for a response.

Johnson said about 20 to 25 EarnFare workers collected signatures for Brown and that four or five planned to join him in filing formal complaints with the Department of Labor.

EarnFare is a program offering jobs to those on public aid. Johnson said he was assigned to work for Muhammad and originally did work on computer repair, his regular field. He said after a few days, Muhammad told him: "You've got to do petitions, and if you don't like it, you can go back to community service."

Johnson said he collected 50 petition pages at 20 signatures a page.

"We didn't know it was illegal," he added.

Workers on government time are banned from doing election campaign work.

Johnson said a Department of Labor employee told him he would receive a letter in six to eight weeks on his complaint.

Brown's petitions were challenged, but she filed 45,000 signatures, more than five times what was required, and the challenge was tossed today. The Cook County Electoral Board has stated that ruling on the legality of petitions allegedly collected by workers on state time is beyond its jurisdiction.