It is natural when working for a political cause or a political campaign to urge that discussions be kept internal. Secrecy is important to every successful political campaign.
It is another matter entirely to force volunteers to sign a loyalty pledge. Still, that is precisely what the Trump Campaign is forcing volunteers to do.
Campaign volunteers for Trump have been issued a six-page contract that includes standard and not-so-standard stipulations. Aside from including non-compete provisions, the contract also forbids the volunteer from criticizing Trump, any Trump company, the campaign or any Trump family member or family member’s business.
The non-disparagement provisions likely would not hold-up in court, but that’s really not the point of such clauses; the point is to scare 20-year-olds who know nothing of the contractual world into silence and obedience.
Many would assume that as the Trump Campaign appears built on “straight-talk” and bold candor, the outspoken billionaire would welcome his subordinates to speak freely as well. Instead, Trump’s contract deviates radically from the norms expected in campaigns.
Trump Campaign emails indicated last week volunteers were required to sign a non-disclosure agreement before they would be allowed to make calls for the campaign. However, on Monday, the contracts were unveiled and they showed a startling departure from the “non-disclosure” agreements referenced last week.
The contracts demand that volunteers refrain from criticizing Trump and further stipulate that volunteers will be in charge of subordinates following the same provision- essentially ensuring that not only are the volunteers having their free speech abridged, but that they will be responsible for abridging the speech of others.
The Daily Dot, which reviewed the contract, claims that the contract is likely legally unenforceable:
“I guess he doesn’t know about the First Amendment,” Davida Perry, an employment lawyer in New York City, told the Daily Dot. “This is really shocking.”
Non-disparagement, non-disclosure, and non-compete agreements—which are all found in Trump’s contract—are common in business contracts, but they apply to employees, not volunteers who receive no compensation for their time and work.
Because volunteers give up their rights but get nothing in return, the contract is likely legally unenforceable, professor Samuel Estreicher, who directs the labor program at NYU Law School, told NBC News.
The Trump campaign could risk a lawsuit by forcing volunteers to give up so much without treating them as employees, Jeanne Christensen, an employment lawyer at Wigdor LLP, told NBC.
The non-disparagement clause states:
- No Disparagement. During the term of your service and at all times thereafter you hereby promise and agree not to demean or disparage publicly the Company, Mr. Trump, any Trump Company, any Family Member, or any Family Member Company or any asset any of the foregoing own, or product or service any of the foregoing offer, in each case by or in any of the Restricted Means and Contexts and to prevent your employees from doing so.
The non-compete provision is also equally troubling. While non-compete provisions are common in politics, Trump’s contract calls for volunteers to remain loyal to the campaign until the campaign “cut-off date,” an ill-defined period that could last for years.
The cut-off date includes any time that Trump is engaged in politics. If he wins the primary and wins in November, that could keep volunteers from working with other political causes until reelection in 2020 or even until 2024 if he wins reelection.
Meanwhile, the young, hopeful aspiring politicos will be approaching 30 by the time they would be released from contractual obligations to Trump and free to pursue a career with other politicians.
This contract is being offered at the same time while Trump (rightfully) complains that his First Amendment rights are being abridged by the protesters seeking to disrupt his rallies.
As PolitiStick has noted previously, it seems that Mr. Trump has a fickle relationship with the First Amendment as it’s only valued when he can make use of it. For others to retain their rights is a burden he seems unwilling to endure.