House

GOP lawmakers warn staff union could hinder Congress’ work 

Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) is seen during a press conference on Wednesday, July 21, 2021 regarding Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) removing Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Jim Banks (R-Ind.) off of the January 6 Select Committee.
Greg Nash

 

Republican lawmakers raised alarm Wednesday that congressional staff unionization would hinder Congress’ ability to carry out its job, during a hearing of the Committee on House Administration.    

Congressional staffers launched a union push last month, aiming to improve working conditions on Capitol Hill, where jobs have been known to be low paying and highly demanding. Their efforts were boosted last month when House Democrats introduced a resolution that would allow for workers to continue with their bargaining efforts. 

Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Il.) said Wednesday that while he supports unionization efforts, he finds such efforts among congressional staffers on Capitol Hill “impractical.” 

“This is a concept that could create numerous conflicts of interest and impact members’ constitutional responsibilities to the American people without the guarantee that any improvement for staff wellbeing would actually materialize” Davis said. 

According to Davis, unionization among congressional workers would create “even more dysfunction in Washington.”

Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) said there are “several pitfalls” congressional staff unionization would have. 

“The uniqueness of this institution requires flexibility; it requires each individual office to meet the unique needs of its constituency. It’s not just state by state, it’s district by district,” Loudermilk said at the hearing Wednesday.  

Those concerns echoed comments last month from Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) last month, who said “It’s like there are 535 employers… I don’t know quite how that fits into any traditional union structure unless you have multiple unions.”

The unionization push has been bolstered by an anonymous Instagram account, Dear White Staffers, in which congressional employees have shared stories of struggling to pay bills despite long hours and intense conditions. 

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said at the hearing he believes Congress can design union structure that keeps Congress functioning while considering the interests of its staffers.

“We can design it the way we think we need to design it in order both to vindicate the interests of staff to having a fair workplace, where their interests are recognized and taken into account, as well as the paramount interests of the government in legislation and I think we can do both,” he said. 

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, however, have acknowledged that there are some gray areas about how a union would work in Congress, with each House and Senate offices operating as an independent entity. 

For example, questions have been raised over whether congressional staff could bargain as a single, broad entity, or if each office would have to individually unionize and negotiate.  

Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.) noted the impediments to congressional unionization, but indicated they could be overcome. 

“I do welcome the opportunity to talk about what are the barriers to unionization so that they can be addressed and what we can do to make it easier,” Scanlon said at the hearing.  

“I am interested in teasing out what we can do in this area,” she added.

Tags Barry Loudermilk congressional staff union Jamie Raskin Mary Gay Scanlon Rodney Davis Roy Blunt

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